Tuesday, July 20, 2010

California's First-in-the-Nation Plastic Carrier Bag Ban Legislation Looks to Be On its Way to Victory

Bagging Single-Use Plastic Bags in the 'Nation State' of California: News/Analysis/Commentary

California Assembly Bill 1998, which would ban single-use plastic carrier bags from being used in the Golden State's grocery and drug stores, appears on the road to becoming law.

Assembly Bill 1998 (The Single-Use Bag Reduction Act), authored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, a Democrat from Santa Monica, passed on June 1 in the California State Assembly, by a 41-27 margin.

[Read - Fresh & Easy Buzz - June 19, 2010: 'Paper or Plastic' Likeley to Be Replaced By 'Reusable or Paper' (For a Fee) in California Grocery Stores]

After passing in the State Assembly, the bill went over to the California State Senate Environmental Quality Committee, which recently approved the legislation in a 5-2 vote.

The bill is now in the California State Senate Appropriations Committee, where it's set to be voted on by August 14.

If the bill passes in Appropriations - which more than likely will be the case - the legislation then goes to the full California State Senate for a vote. In order to meet the legislative deadline, the bill must be voted on and passed by August 31, 2010.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he intends to sign AB 1998 if passed and sent to him.

The legislation bans single-use plastic carrier bags at grocery and drug stores in California. The single-use plastic bag ban would be phased in over two years, starting with supermarkets and any other format store over 10,000 square-feet containing pharmacies. Convenience stores would have until July 1, 2013 to comply with the law.

The bill also allows grocery and drug stores to offer paper grocery bags to shoppers, which the retailers would have to sell to customers for a minimum of five cents per bag. California grocers are already required by law to offer reusable shopping bags in their stores.

As we outlined in our June 19 story, the legislation is supported by the California Grocers Association (CGA), the state's trade association, which represents chain and independent grocers with stores in the Golden State.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is a CGA member, and therefore supports the legislation banning single-use plastic bags, as does Safeway Stores, Inc., Save Mart Supermarkets, WinCo Foods, the Rite Aid drug chain and numerous other food and drug retailers, many which are listed below.

Below is a listening of some of the key supporters and opponents of the single-use plastic carrier bag ban legislation.


California Grocers Association
Californians Against Waste
Heal the Bay
1 Bag at a Time Inc
Association of Communities United of South Los Angeles
Ballona Creek Renaissance
Bay Area Council
California Association of Environmental Health Administrators
California Coastal Coalition
California Coastkeeper Alliance
California League of Conservation Voters
California State Lands Commission
Chico Bag
City of Burbank
City of Del Mar
City of Long Beach
City of Newport Beach
City of Pasadena
City of San Buenaventura
City of San Clemente
City of Solana Beach
City of Ventura
Clean South Bay
Clean Water Action California
Defenders of Wildlife
Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association
Duro Bag Manufacturing Company
Earth Resource Foundation
Earthwise Bag Company
East Bay Municipal Utility District
Environment California
Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market Inc.
Friends of Five Creeks
Global Green USA
Green Sangha
Humboldt Coastkeepers
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County Solid Waste Management Committee/ Integrated Waste Management Task Force
Marin County Board of Supervisors
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
Monterey Regional Waste Management District
Natural Resources Defense Council
Neighborhood Market Association
Northcoast Environmental Center
OCEANAOrange County Coastkeeper
Ormond Beach Observers
Planning and Conservation League
Plastic Pollution Coalition
PW Supermarkets Inc. (San Jose)
Rainforest Action Network
Rite Aid
San Diego Coastkeeper
San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission
Santa Monica Baykeeper
Save Mart Supermarkets
Seventh Generation Advisors
Sierra Club of California
Solid Waste Solutions Inc
StopWaste.org – Alameda County Waste Management Authority
Steven Bochco Productions
Super A Food Inc. (Commerce)
Surfers’ Environmental Alliance
Surfrider Foundation
State Lands Commission
Urban Semillas
Washington Elementary PTA
Western States Council of the United Food & Commercial Workers
Wild Heritage Planners
WinCo Foods Inc.
Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists
Youth Opportunities for High School and Associations of Communities United of South Los Angeles


American Chemistry Council
American Forest & Paper Association
Biodegradable Products Institute
Bradley Packaging Systems
California Film Extruders & Converters Association
California Forestry Association
Californians for Extended Producer Responsibility
Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Command Packaging
Corona Chamber of Commerce
Crown Poly Inc
Great American Packaging
Heritage Bag
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce

If the legislation passes - all current indications are that it will and the Governor has said he will sign it into law - California will be the first state in the U.S. to impose a ban on single-use plastic carrier bags at grocery and drug stores.

The law also will preempt all city and county bag ban laws in the state, accept San Francisco's, which has an exemption in the legislation.

But once passed and signed by the Governor, California's single-use plastic bag ban law could find itself spending years in the courts.

The single-use plastic carrier bag industry, through its trade association, has been successful in getting municipal bag ban laws in California cities like Oakland and Manhattan Beach struck down by the courts.

Many observers believe the single-use plastic carrier bag industry will file suit against the California law not long after it's signed by the Governor. One key reason it could do so is because the California law would be the first such statewide ban in the U.S., and likely will serve as a model that other states will follow. This is something the single-use plastic carrier bag industry wants to avoid - the establishment of the first statewide ban.

On the other hand, since California's grocery and drug retailers are in favor of the ban, the single-use plastic carrier bag industry would find itself in a strange position if it does file suit. In doing so, it would essentially be fighting to keep the use of plastic carrier bags legal in California grocery and drug stores, even though the primary users of the bags - the grocers and drug chains which operate those stores - are in favor of banning the bags.

California's grocers are in favor of the legislation because they want one single, uniform statewide law, rather than a patchwork of municipal and county single-use plastic carrier bag laws, whcih require the retailers to do one thing in city A and another in City B. For example, Safeway can't offer single-use plastic carrier bags at its stores in San Francisco. However, it can offer them at its store in South San Francisco (it's own municipality) which is literally next door to San Francisco. The same with other grocery chains and multi-store independents.

Therefore, if the single-use plastic carrier bag industry does file suit against the California law (assuming it passes of course), we suspect the California Grocers Association will join the State of California in arguing to uphold the law, thereby pitting the plastic bag industry against the grocers, sonething it should think twice about doing, since many of the chains like Safeway Stores are major customers for single-use plastic carrier bags for company-owned chains and stores outside of California.

Reader Resources:

>Ronald Fong, president and CEO of the California Grocers Association, authored an opinion piece in Sunday's (July 18) Sacramento Bee, in which he describes why the state's grocers are in favor of the single-use plastic bag ban legislation. You can read his Op Ed here. Look to the write of Fong's Op Ed. There are two other opinion pieces offering different perspectives.

>Also on Sunday, July 18, Kroger Co.'s Fred Meyer food and general merchandise chain, which has 130 stores located in the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain regions in the Western U.S., announced it would stop offering single-use plastic carrier bags in its 10 stores in Portland, Oregon. beginning on August 1, 2010.

Oregon is considering bag ban legislation similar to California's. Fred Meyer has decided to get out in front of the pending legislation by doing a unique test - which you can read about here - at its 10 stores in Portland.

>Fresh & Easy Buzz has been reporting on, writing about, and offering analysis and opinion on the single-use plastic carrier bag, reusable bag, and related topics and issues since early 2008. Click here, here, here and here to read a selection of those posts.

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