California Proposes to Ban Plastic Bags

With a new bill, California may be the first state to take a huge leap in reducing waste from plastic bags.

plastic bags

Plastic bags can pile up in your home—or in the landfill.

Photo By evelynishere/Courtesy Flickr

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Sometimes you forget your grocery list, but soon you might have to pay for forgetting to bring your own bags to the grocery store.

Earlier this month the California Assembly voted 41 to 27 to pass a bill banning plastic grocery bags. According to the bill, shoppers must either bring their own reusable bags or purchase plastic bags at the checkout for 5 cents per bag. But they won’t be the usual plastic kind—they are made of partially recycled content.

The goal is to reduce the number of plastic bags littering waterways and filling up the landfills. According to the Assembly’s analysis, 19 billion bags are used each year in California. With the highest population of any state, that comes out to 552 bags per person.

While many cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C. have passed similar laws, this would constitute the first statewide ban of plastic bags. Others like Seattle have proposed such laws, only to be vetoed. Washington D.C. began charging 5 cents for bags this year, and has seen a decrease from 22 million bags a month to 3 million. With those inspiring results, California is hoping to see similar strides made towards reducing the amount of plastic bags used.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If approved, the plastic bag ban will take effect in January 2012.