Yes, It's True: California is Banning Plastic Bags


Photo via IAN

Thanks largely to the interminable gloom of the BP Gulf oil spill, it feels like we haven't seen any good news on the green front for ages. But while all eyes have been on the Gulf, the California State Assembly passed a truly exciting bill: One that bans single-use plastic bags across the state. That's correct: plastic bags will no longer be frivolously doled out with every purchase in the most populous state in the nation. Technically, only the practice of handing out bags for free will be banned -- plastic bags will still be available to purchase for a nickel each. But that simple, inexpensive deterrent has already proven to drastically cut the amount of bags used in areas that have adopted similar laws (Washington DC, San Francisco, Beijing).

Which means that the impact of this law will be nothing less than momentous -- Californians use a stunning 19 billion plastic bags every year, or some 552 per person, according to the state Assembly's analysis. Charging a nominal fee for each one will slash those numbers by huge margins, if the precedents are any indicators. In Washington DC, for instance, plastic bag use dropped from 22 million to 3 million a month after the 5 cent ban took effect.

The plastic bag banning bill is expected to breeze through the state Senate, and then it only needs a signature from Governor Schwarzenegger, which he has said publicly he will provide.

And this bill is good news on every front: less waste in the landfill, less trash in the environment, less oil used to meet bag demand, and so on. The development has additional import considering California's status as a trailblazer and a trendsetter for the rest of the nation. Other states will be watching -- kudos to California, for a fine law that just about everyone (except the plastic manufacturers) can get behind.

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