A bill that would ban grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies throughout the state from distributing single-use plastic shopping bags has received the approval of the state Assembly.

In a 41-27 vote June 2nd, the Assembly approved Assembly Bill 1998, legislation authored by Santa Monica Assemblywoman Julia Brownley that seeks to end the use of 19 billion single-use plastic shopping bags each year.

The Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay, which sponsored AB 1988, has led the legislative fight to enact a bag ban for more than five years as part of its ongoing efforts to tackle plastic pollution.

“Today marks a critical milestone in the ongoing battle to rid our oceans and watersheds of harmful, wasteful plastics,” said Heal the Bay President Mark Gold. “We congratulate the Assembly for not only helping to save the marine environment, but also for saving taxpayer dollars.”

Proponents of AB 1998 include the California Grocers Association, the California Retailers Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, as well as a coalition of environmental organizations and local governments.

“After years of hard work, it’s gratifying to see such a broad range of stakeholders come together on a common-sense solution,” said Leslie Tamminen, organizer of the Clean Seas Coalition, which has helped lead the legislative charge in ending plastic pollution statewide.

Retailers will still be able to distribute paper bags, so long as they contain at least 40 percent post-consumer content. Shoppers are encouraged to bring reusable bags but those who forget their reusable bags will have the option of purchasing a paper bag at grocery and retail checkout lines.

San Francisco, Palo Alto and Malibu are among the cities that have already enacted bans. The Santa Monica City Council considered joining the abovementioned cities last year, but decided to wait for an environmental impact report on a potential ordinance, which was recently released to the public.

California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste, according to Heal the Bay. Less than five percent of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide, and the remainder often winds up in precious landfill, litters public spaces and harms animal life when the bags infiltrate waterways, says Heal the Bay.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to vote on the bill later this summer.

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