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Bag Ban Battle Rises to State Level, and Marin Remains its Epicenter

Marin state Assemblyman Marc Levine wants to prohibit single-use plastic bags in California in 2015.

A once-failed effort to eliminate single-use plastic bags across California has been recycled by San Rafael state Assemblyman Marc Levine, again making Marin County the focus of the battle of the bag ban in the state.

Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced legislation earlier this month that would prohibit single-use plastic bags beginning in 2015. He resurrected a failed 2011-12 proposal (AB 298) by termed-out Assemblywoman Julia Brownley. That legislation cleared the Assembly floor in 2011 but faced opposition from plastic bag manufacturers and grocers and was never heard by the state Senate, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"To continue the use of these bags would ignore the convincing body of global evidence proving that these bags are having a drastic effect on marine ecocultures," Levine said in a statement. "Additionally, there are several easily available and affordable alternatives to plastic bags. We need to ban these bags once and for all."

Levine's move once again puts Marin at the forefront of the efforts to regulate the use of plastic bags. On Jan. 25, 2011, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously banned the distribution of plastic bags at grocery stores and markets that sell food. The ordinance also imposes a 5-cent fee for each paper bag a shopper needs because they forgot to bring a reusable bag. The ban, which went into effect in January 2012, only applies to unincorporated Marin, though a number of grocery chains within city limits have voluntarily complied.

The success of Levine's proposed law may hinge on the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition efforts of Tiburon resident Stephen Joseph, who has challenged the Marin County ban with a lawsuit. That lawsuit has kept other cities and towns from following the county and they are still waiting for a resolution to his litigation before proceeding with their own prohibitions. 

Fairfax passed its own plastic bag ban in 2008.

Bag manufacturers remain staunchly opposed to eliminating plastic bags from grocery store checkout stands. Bag the Ban, a project of recycled content high density polyethylene bag manufacturer Hilex Poly, call the bans "trendy" and legislation that “feels good to pass."

"Legislators should instead be spending time and money on legislation that has a positive impact for families and the economy," a Bag the Ban spokeswoman said.

Here are the fundamentals of Levine's proposal:

  1. Beginning on January 1, 2015, full-line grocery stores with more than $2 million in annual sales or retailers with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space would be prohibited from providing single-use plastic bags to customers.
  2. From January 1, 2015 to July 30, 2016, stores above could provide recycled paper bags to customers.
  3. Stores subject to this bill would be required to make reusable grocery bags available for sale.

He says it will help reduce litter and protect marine wildlife. Plastic bags account for about 10 percent of trash that washes up on beaches, according to Levine. Worldwide, it's believed people use about 500 billion plastic bags annually.

Opponents say that means the problem is litter, not plastic bags, according to CalWatchdog, a journalism venture covering the state capitol.

There also has been criticism how dirty reusable bags get.

"And unfortunately, most shoppers are completely unaware that, without proper cleaning, reusable shopping bags can contain harmful bacteria that can cause food-borne illness," according to Bag the Ban.

The cost of reusable bags has come under fire as well. Although it seems every store, community group and company gives out free reusable bags, many customers purchase them when they checkout. Under Levine's bill, grocery stores will have to provide paper or reusable bags to low-income customers.

"Levine’s bill will impose another unnecessary tax on the consumer and once again penalize private industry," CalWatchdog opined.

Dozens of communities around the country have banned single-use plastic bags in recent years, Plastics News reported. In California, about 16 percent of the state's population is covered by a single-use plastic bag prohibition, according to Californians Against Waste.

It hasn't been perfect, though. Complaints from consumers range from trouble remembering their reusable bags to no longer having plastic bags to clean up their dog's poop. About 90 percent of Americans reuse their plastic bags at least once, for everything from storage to waste disposal to packing material, according data from Bag the Ban.

Do you support a statewide ban on plastic bags at grocery stores? Please comment below.

Jane Gray February 10, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Yes, And if we end the Abortions in our country, we would save thousands of innocent lives,,,,,,not to mention the dropping census with Abortions of children as young as ten. I personally KNOW that Abortion Planned Parenthood clinics will put a ten year old on the pill, WITHOUT the Parents knowledge or concent. I am so much more interested in human beings over animals and fish for now. I have had a farm, horses, dogs, cats, fish, birds, ducks, goat, pigs, sheep, rabbits, donkeys and especially four healthy children, I favor children over my animals. We seem to have our priorities mixed up, with all this trash bag analisis, have you ever delved into how many young girls will have to live with the fact that she let others kill her babys? Boy, will I ever get a back lash for this comment. But it is all true. Earth people, rejoice, you have water,food and clothing. Oh, and I also wear fur at times too.
Jane Gray February 10, 2013 at 08:29 PM
I just crochet mine into a nice serviceable rug in front of my kitchen sink, and it is great. I think way too much is put on the grocery stores to "provide" paper bags, when the forest is being chopped down to provide those? When will we as human beings start loving our fellow man, take a longer look at the prison population for example, what are they eating these days? Mistery meats? and how are we caring for our elders ? Do we have plenty of shelters for the homeless and programs to help them? I love having clean air, clean water, but I also favore HUMAN beings over animal life. I believe the Lord gave us animals to eat,,,,biblical,,, and a good sound mind to not want babies torn from a mothers womb ,,,,,abortions,,,,,, POT to use instead of prescribed medicines,,,,but then, I am not a left over flower child,and was planting a garden and teaching my children same way back when. We need our priorities shaken up a bit don't you think?
Jane Gray February 10, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Insults to me roll off my back Michael,,,,,,thanks but no thanks,,,,, I see it as it is. Truth seems to hurt ?
Jane Gray February 10, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Christians Mark, are to make sound judgements in life, one that does not include men who lust after men, or women who lust after women,,,,,,this is un-natural to put it mildly,,, I love all people, but do not have to agree with they're sins. I think that about wraps it up for me. I don't want to spend my time trying to reeducate people who are not truely trying to follow Gods laws in life. I pray for them and let God be God......I am not anyones savior. You make your own "sound judgements" for yourselves and we will see in the end what happens okay?
Jane Gray February 10, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Dear Harvey, I am not on your "ship" to change society to accept your sins,,,,,,, simple and clear. I move on to saving human beings , we need to end murdering our babies don't you think? And what about HIV?

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