Organic Consumers Association

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State Plastic Bag Ban Gaining Support

California would be the first state to ban plastic and most paper bags from grocery, convenience and other stores under a proposal that appears headed for a major legislative victory this week.

Shoppers who don't bring their own totes to a store would have to purchase paper bags made of at least 40 percent recycled material for a minimum of 5 cents or buy reusable bags under the proposal, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2012. A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he supports the bill, which will be voted on in the Assembly this week and could go to a Senate vote this year.

The measure would go further than plastic bag bans in at least five California cities, including San Francisco.

San Francisco's ordinance applies only to chain supermarkets and pharmacies, but the state measure would bar the items from all food and convenience stores, and it would also restrict retailers from handing out free paper bags.

"AB1998 would ban all of the single-use bags that have been polluting our oceans and waterways and threatening marine life," said the bill's author, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica. 19 billon bags a year

Californians use 19 billion plastic bags a year, and the state spends more than $25 million annually to collect and bury the items, Brownley said. Environmental groups said only 5 percent of the bags are recycled, a figure the plastics industry disputes.

"It's time for a uniform, statewide policy so consumers know what to expect wherever they go," she said at a news conference in Sacramento on Tuesday. She was joined by actresses Amy Smart, Rosario Dawson and Rachelle Lefevre.

Environmental groups have pushed the ban for years, noting the damaging effects of plastic bags on the marine environment, particularly for animals that ingest or are entangled in bags. Business groups, including those representing grocery stores and the plastics industry, have argued against similar proposals in the past.

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