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California bag ban faces August 31 deadline for passage

Update: The California state senate sent the proposed bag ban to defeat last night by a vote of 20-14, according to the Sacramento Bee.

A bill that would ban single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning in 2012, with liquor stores and convenience stores to follow suit in 2013, was expected to come up for a vote before the California state senate on August 31. State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has already indicated that he would sign the bill into law if it came before him, with August 31 being the final day the bill could pass.

The bill, which initially called for a $0.05/bag fee to be charged for plastic bags, has come under intense opposition from a number of groups, including The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and its Progressive Bag Affiliates group. In a August 26 press release, the ACC criticized recently published statements from the bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, saying that her "inflammatory comments are obviously intended to distract public attention from the substance and dire consequences of Assembly Bill 1998." In a blog posting, Brownley compared the ACC's campaign against her bill to the tobacco industry's defense of smoking, calling bags a "cancer".

The ACC says AB 1998, which would ban plastic grocery bags in California and require stores to charge at least $0.05 for paper bags, would be bad for the economy and the environment. The ACC estimates that the bill would eliminate "several hundred" California manufacturing jobs and dismantle existing plastic bag-recycling programs. Perhaps of more concern to the ACC is the fact that as California goes when it comes to regulation, quite often, so goes the rest of the U.S., making the bags a potential target across the rest of the country.

For its part, the ACC believes enhanced recycling programs would be a more effective solution to reducing bag litter and increasing proper disposal. The ACC sponsored legislation in 2009 (AB 1141) that it says would have generated nearly $30 million annually in fees paid for by plastic bag makers for local and state governments to fund recycling, litter clean-up, and storm water pollution prevention efforts. 

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