California has become the first US state to sign into law a ban on single-use plastic bags, including those used for bagging up purchases at grocery stores. The legislation is meant to cut down on waste throughout the state and to help protect its land from pollution. The ban will begin this coming July in grocery stores and pharmacies, and it'll expand to convenience stores and liquor stores one year later. "This bill is a step in the right direction," California Governor Jerry Brown says in a statement. "It reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks, and even the vast ocean itself.
"We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last"
The ban is estimated to cut California off from using over 13 billion single-use plastic bags each year. Some plastic bags will still be allowed, however, such as those used to wrap up an open food item or to protect hung up clothing. The state will also provide $2 million in loans to businesses that will begin moving away from manufacturing plastic bags. Stores will be able to sell paper bags to consumers for 10 cents a piece. While that may sound frustrating, this isn't new for a good number of Californians: local plastic bag bans have already covered where 10 million residents live — about a quarter of its population.
The law is a huge step, in particular, toward reducing ocean pollution. Legislation co-author Alex Padilla says that single-use bags kill thousands of marine animals each year. Plastic items in general are also estimated to account for 60 to 80 percent of marine debris. The National Resources Defense Council calls the legislation "a thrilling win" for ocean lovers.
Plastic bag manufacturers are, unsurprisingly, pretty unhappy about the ban, with their trade group calling it a scam and a bad law. It also says that the legislation jeopardizes thousands of jobs. The trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, hopes to have voters overturn the law through a referendum.
California is confident that it's on the right track here, and environmentalists, naturally, are in agreement. It will, of course, take a lot more than just one state law to truly begin cleaning things up. "We’re the first to ban these bags," Governor Brown says, "and we won’t be the last."