The environmental group Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean, has joined forces with Los Angeles County to endorse Assembly Bill (AB) 2829, legislation that would impose a mandatory fee on the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags at all large grocery stores and pharmacies statewide.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Mike Davis of Los Angeles, would mark the most aggressive action by any State Legisla- ture to curb the proliferation of plastic bags and limit their negative impacts on the marine environment, local economies and quality of life for millions of citizens, according to Heal the Bay.

In a bid to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags, store owners would be required to charge 25 cents for each plastic bag requested by shoppers. Funds raised would be directed back to local governments on a per-capita basis for litter prevention and reduction efforts.

Members of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resource were scheduled to vote on the measure Monday, April 14th.

The bill has the support of various environmental, business and government groups.

“This precedent-setting bill can propel California once again to the forefront of progressive environmental public policy,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “Along with a ban, a fee- based proposal is the most effective way to help rid our state of its addiction to wasteful, single-use packaging.”

Californians use more than 19 billion disposable plastic shopping bags each year, with taxpayers spending more than $25 million to collect and dispose of them. While the bags are recyclable, less than five percent of them are recycled, according to Heal the Bay.

The vast majority wind up in dwindling landfill or clogging our watersheds and blighting public spaces, according to Heal the Bay.

AB 2829 seeks to amend a state law that currently forbids municipalities from imposing carryout bag fees, restoring local government’s authority to enact measures that have been shown to reduce pollution.

Ireland, for example, has reduced use of plastic bags by 90 percent since 2002 after imposing mandatory fees on their use, according to Heal the Bay.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a measure earlier this year that set recycling targets for retailers that distribute plastic bags.

“The distribution of plastic bags has created a hidden cost on residents,” said County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. “They not only pay for plastic bags in the price of their commodities, but their tax dollars fund litter prevention and abatement efforts.

“It’s our poorest communities that are most negatively impacted by the high amount of plastic bag blight,” Burke added.