California looks poised to become the first state in the nation to pass a plastic bag ban. Senate Bill 270, which passed out of the Assembly on a 44-29 vote, would phase out single-use plastic bags starting in 2015. A vote on the issue failed earlier this week, but it’s now expected to move through the Senate.
Passage of the bill would bring the state in line with local municipalities such as San Jose and Los Angeles, the latter of which became the largest city in the nation with a ban in place. San Jose implemented its own BYOB ordinance two years ago, banning plastic bags with few complaints from residents. As a result of the ordinance, the city reported, bag litter in storm drains, creeks and neighborhood streets plummeted by more than 50 percent.
The state currently goes through 14 billion plastic bags per year, according to analysis of the bill, with only 3 percent recycled. Lobbyists have fought the proposed ban for several years, arguing that it will result in a loss of jobs in the paper and plastic bag manufacturing industry. Right now, however, one-third of the state has some form of a ban in place.
Environmental lobbyist Mark Murray told the Mercury News that the bill’s passage out of the Assembly on Thursday was due to an “overwhelming success of this policy at the local level.” With a last-minute provision tacking on a 10-cent paper bag fee, which is part of San Jose’s model, the bill pushed overcame this week’s lobbying onslaught.
The State Senate is expected to hear the bill Friday. It must receive approval by Sunday, because the legislative session ends Aug. 31.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the estimated amount of bags used each year in California. San Jose Inside regrets the error.