California becomes the first US state to ban plastic bags

Rubbish in ocean

California has become the first US state to officially ban non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags. The State Governor, Jerry Brown, has just given the go-ahead to Senate Bill 270, signing it into law at the end of September. The new law will come into effect in January 2015, with grocery stores and pharmacies among the first to be affected. More durable, reusable plastic bags or paper bags will be sold at grocery stores, for a minimum of ten cents.

“I applaud Governor Brown for signing SB 270 into law,” said Senator Padilla, who co-authored the bill. “A throw-away society is not sustainable. This new law will greatly reduce the flow of billions of single-use plastic bags that litter our communities and harm our environment each year.”

“Littered plastic bags are a real blight on the landscape and often end up in the ocean, harming marine life,” agrees 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.”

Similar legislation exists in 100 Californian municipalities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. The new law will effectively consolidate this approach, creating a uniform, statewide position on plastic bags.

Many plastic bag and paper bag producers had opposed the bill, saying it would 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 supported 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 bans 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 will be another step forward in the state’s sustainability journey.

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