The county of Los Angeles and some local cities are not backing down on their pursuit of a ban of single-use plastic bags despite the failure of the legislation at the state level.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1998, which had been approved by the state Assembly, was rejected by the state Senate late Tuesday, Aug. 31. The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), would have banned the distribution of single-use plastic bags statewide and allowed for 40 percent post-consumer content recycled paper bags to be sold at cost at supermarkets, large retail pharmacies and foodmarts.
California would have become the first state in the nation to ban single-use carryout bags with the bill’s approval.
In explaining her push for the bag ban, Brownley said Californians use nearly 19 billion plastic bags annually but less than 5 percent are recycled. The bags kill sea turtles, entangle birds and other marine life and are ingested by whales and fish, according to the assemblywoman.
A main opponent of the bill, the American Chemistry Council, which claimed that the bill would result in the elimination of hundreds of bag manufacturing jobs and dismantle a growing plastic bag recycling infrastructure, hailed the Senate’s denial of the legislation.
“We congratulate Senate members for discarding a costly bill that provides no real solutions to California’s litter problem and would have further jeopardized California’s already strained economy,” said Tim Shestek, senior director of American Chemistry Council state affairs.
The county of Los Angeles and the cities of Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach had announced prior to the vote that if the bill was rejected, they would continue pursuing bans on single-use plastic bags in their jurisdictions.
“Although we believe strongly that a uniform statewide policy on plastic bags is preferable, we cannot wait another year for Sacramento to act,” county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky said. “If AB 1998 does not pass, Los Angeles county will not only consider passing an ordinance, but will strongly encourage each of the 88 cities within Los Angeles county to enact similar bans.”
Santa Monica’s City Council is scheduled to consider a proposed ordinance at its Oct. 12 meeting. The ordinance would prohibit all retail establishments within city limits from providing single-use plastic carry out bags to customers, and create a “green fee” for each paper bag distributed by grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies in the city.
Restaurants would be exempted from the ban and allowed to provide plastic bags for take-out food. City staff said the proposed ordinance is meant to significantly reduce the environmental impacts related to single-use plastic and paper carry out bags, and to promote a major shift towards reusable bags.
The city participated in the development of a master environmental assessment on single-use bags with other jurisdictions in California. That document assesses the impacts of the ban and has enabled participants to quickly move ahead with the adoption of bag bans.
“Single use plastic bags are a burden to our oceans, our beaches, our economy, and the cleanliness of our city,” said Councilman Terry O’Day. “Our city is incurring costs for disposal of single-use bags and other communities around the world have proven that eliminating plastic bags from the waste stream is sensible.”