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Plastic Recycling July 10, 2024 01:10:30 PM

California Lawmakers Look to Improve Plastic Bag Ban

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
The bills, called identical in their analyses, would make key changes in existing law.

California Lawmakers Look to Improve Plastic Bag Ban

SEATTLE (Scrap Monster):  Call California’s current plastic bag ban the poster child of unintended consequences.

That’s how legislative staff termed it when discussing one of two bills that seeks to reinvent the Golden State’s prohibition on plastic grocery bags.

Assembly Bill 2236, by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, and Senate Bill 1053, by state Senator Catherine Blakespear, share the same goal. If enacted into law, the bills would remove an exemption enjoyed by thicker plastic-film bags under the current single-use bag ban. New requirements for reusable bags sold at stores would be implemented. And stores couldn’t sell reusable bags unless they meet certain standards.

Both bills, written by Democrats, have passed key deadlines and now, like the rest of the Legislature, are paused while lawmakers are on their summer recess. The Legislature reconvenes Aug. 5.

The bills met a Wednesday deadline to pass out of a policy committee. They’re now headed to their respective appropriations committees, which they must pass by Aug. 16. All bills must pass both houses by Aug. 31 to reach the governor’s desk.

In many ways, the bills are a response to the state’s move a decade ago to eliminate plastic bags. Senate Bill 270 created the ban in 2014, but allowed an exemption for thicker plastic bags, as it was anticipated people would reuse them.

They didn’t.

“The thicker ‘reusable’ bags have in fact, not been reused, and contribute even more to plastic waste,” staff for the Senate Environmental Quality Committee wrote in a bill analysis. “The average time shoppers use a plastic bag is 12 minutes, certainly less than the 125 uses they were claimed to be designed for.”

Disposal of plastic grocery and other types of bags was over 230,000 tons a year as of 2021. That means the bag ban, which was supposed to lead to reducing, reusing or recycling, instead did the opposite.

The bills, called identical in their analyses, would make key changes in existing law.

They would remove the exemption the thicker plastic bags currently have. Additionally, any reusable bag sold at a spot other than the point-of-sale must be made of cloth or a woven textile, have at least one strap that’s sewn on, and be able to hold 22 pounds if carried 175 feet at least 300 times.

The laws, which would be effective Jan. 1, 2026, would prohibit a store from offering a single-use bag or reusable bag at the point-of-sale. However, recycled paper bags could be sold at the point-of-sale for 10 cents. A recycled paper bag must have a minimum of 50% post-consumer recycled materials by Jan. 1, 2028.

“A plastic bag has an average lifespan of 12 minutes and then it is discarded, often clogging sewage drains, contaminating our drinking water and degenerating into toxic microplastics that fester in our oceans and landfills for up to 1,000 years,” Blakespear is quoted in a bill analysis. “It’s time to improve on California’s original plastic bag ban and do it right this time by completely eliminating plastic bags from being distributed by stores to carry food home.”

A third bill, while not about plastic bags, would make significant changes to grocery store operations.

Senate Bill 1446 — written by state Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, a Los Angeles Democrat — would make three large changes. The bill would require one employee dedicated for every two self-checkout machines, set a maximum of 15 items at self-checkout and require stores to inform employees, employee unions and the public two months in advance of any large changes in technology.

The bill doesn’t apply to large warehouse stores that charge a membership fee to customers.

Senate Bill 1446 is next set for the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

 Courtesy: www.courthousenews.com

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