California gears up to ban plastic bags

Rubbish in ocean

California may soon become the first US state to officially ban non-biodegradable plastic bags, if a new state Legislature bill gets the go ahead. Similar legislation exists in 100 Californian municipalities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. The new law would effectively consolidate this approach, creating a uniform, statewide position on plastic bags.

California’s governor, Jerry Brown, looks set to sign the bill by the end of September 2014. If he does, the law would come into play in July 2015, with grocery stores and pharmacies among the first to be affected. More durable, reusable plastic bags or paper bags could be sold at grocery stores, for a minimum of ten cents.

“Littered plastic bags are a real blight on the landscape and often end up in the ocean, harming marine life,” says Nigel Hunton, CEO of MBA Polymers. “It’s important that policymakers take a strong stance on limiting their use in order to protect the environment and conserve natural resources.”

Many plastic bag and paper bag producers have opposed the law, saying it will harm jobs and serve as a tax on consumers. In contrast, the California Grocers Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), a union that represents grocery workers, both support it. UFCW says it wants the money currently spent on plastic bags to be used for worker training and food safety initiatives.

To help pave the way for manufactures to shift toward producing reusable bags, the new legislation makes provision for some $2m in loans. Packaging company Command Packaging has already made a head start by retooling some of its machines in preparation for the ban, moving to create reusable plastic bags from recycled agricultural film used for wrapping crops.

Elsewhere in the US, bans are in place in Seattle and Portland, as well as most counties in Hawaii. In Europe, Italy passed a law banning non-biodegradable plastic bags in 2013. California has already proved its progressive stance on waste, with San Francisco banning the sale of plastic bottled water in city-owned properties and outdoor spaces earlier this year. The new plastic bag ban would be another step forward in the state’s journey toward sustainability.

To learn more about how plastic can be recycled into raw materials, please visit the MBA Polymers website.