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On Friday the state of California passed a bill to ban the use of plastic bags. The bill must be signed into law by September 30 and was supported with a 22 – 15 vote. The new law was passed in an effort to cut down on waste and is the first of its kind in the United States. The bill was pushed with the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, after initially being failed by three votes. The newly found support pushed the bill through on the second vote.
Environmentalists have long pushed to ban plastic bags. Although they are cheaper for supermarkets to use than paper bags, they create a lot trash that is not easy to recycle. California has a particular concern about plastic bags; they could harm ocean life when swept out to sea. The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Alex Padilla, said:
Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes.
There are a host of retailers that have recycle bins for plastic bags but studies have demonstrated that reusable grocery bags are nothing short of a refuge for bacteria that forms from meat juices. One study tested 84 reusable plastic bags and all of them except for one had an excessive amount of bacteria. Most of the bacteria which was found in the bags was directly related to uncooked food or raw-meat, with E coil being present in 12 percent of the bags.
Once the bill is signed it will ban grocery stores from providing plastic bags as well as provide money to plastic bag companies in that locality so they can strategize to create heavier multi-use bags. The intentions of the bill are admirable, but one has to question if a measure like this was necessary and well thought out. Many feel there were bigger issues that required attention than a plastic bag ban.
Cathy Browne, general manager at Crown Poly, said this bill will lead to massive layoffs at companies which manufacture plastic bags. There are an estimated 10 billion plastic bags consumed in California every year. When Padilla was running for the office of secretary of state, plastic bag companies aired ads against him.
San Francisco was one of the first major cities in the world to pass a ban on the use of non-compostable plastic bags. It was a gradual process which was fully enforced in 2012. For a small fee retailers were allowed to sell compostable, sturdier and easier to recycle plastic bags. This concept had become so popular that before the bill passed San Francisco was only one of over 40 municipalities in California that had already enacted bans on plastic bags.
Marc Levine, Assemblyman, supports the idea of banning plastic bags statewide in all retail locations. He stated:
We need to ban these bags once and for all. To continue the use of these bags would ignore the convincing body of global evidence proving that these bags are having a drastic effect on marine eco-cultures. Additionally, there are several easily available and affordable alternatives to plastic bags.
The state of California passed a bill on Friday to ban the use of plastic bags. The bill was passed with a 22 – 15 vote and must be signed into law by September 30. The new law was passed in an effort to cut down on waste and is the first of its kind in the United States.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)