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Plastic Recycling April 19, 2024 05:10:49 PM

Plan to Ban Plastic Grocery Bags Clears First Hurdle in California

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
Assembly Bill 1775 would enable local governments to authorize cannabis businesses to make and sell non-cannabis food and nonalcoholic beverages.

Plan to Ban Plastic Grocery Bags Clears First Hurdle in California

SEATTLE (Scrap Monster):  A bill that would prohibit plastic bags in California grocery stores and steer people to paper or reusable bags passed its first legislative committee hearing on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1053 — written by state Senator Catherine Blakespear, an Encinitas Democrat — would remove an exemption thicker plastic bags currently have and eliminate them as an option for Golden State shoppers.

It’s a fix to a loophole that’s existed for 10 years, Blakespear said. Currently, stores must charge at least 10 cents to customers who buy reusable, recycled paper, or compostable bags.

“Customers began using these thicker plastic bags that were reusable and recyclable,” Blakespear said.

However, those “recyclable” bags aren’t, in fact, getting recycled, she added.

Over 157,000 tons of plastic bags were discarded in California in 2014. That climbed to over 231,000 tons in 2022.

Blakespear’s bill would allow no exceptions for plastic film bags. A reusable bag must be cloth or of a woven textile that has straps sewn with thread and can be used at least 300 times. Stores could still provide paper bags or allow customers to bring their own.

The bill doesn't touch bags used to hold meat or produce.

Louie Brown with the California Grocers Association said Senate Bill 270 — the bill that implemented the existing grocery bag law — worked initially. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and grocers told customers not to bring reusable bags.

Mark Murray, with Californians Against Waste, said the pandemic led to the emergence of thicker plastic bags.

“What we all know is that those bags are not being reused,” Murray said.

Brown said current law has no requirement that grocery stores must accept plastic bags for recycling, though about 40% of them do.

Meanwhile, Blakespear noted landfills are installing fences — not to keep people out but to stop plastic bags from blowing away.

“This bill is simply saying, let’s just have paper,” she said.

The bill secured enough votes to pass out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. It now proceeds to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

A related bill by Blakespear — Senate Bill 1167 — didn’t receive enough votes to get out of committee.

That bill would have affected chain restaurants and prohibited them from using single-use cups for customers who dine in. They could have faced daily fines of $25, with an annual maximum of $300.

Californians dispose of 290 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of plastic each day, according to the bill analysis. Blakespear said her bill could save small businesses between $3,000 and $22,000 a year by switching to reusable cups. Additionally, that would stop between 1,300 to 2,200 pounds of single-use garbage from becoming trash.

Dan Kalb, an Oakland city councilmember speaking in favor of the bill, said the state faces a plastic pollution crisis. Blakespear’s legislation would help address that problem.

The bill faced pushback, with opponents pointing to Senate Bill 54, an existing law that dictates packaging and plastic foodware sold in the state be recyclable and compostable. The California Manufacturers & Technology Association had negotiated in 2022 when Senate Bill 54 was passed and opposed additional restrictions like Blakespear’s new bill.

State Senator Brian Dahle, a Bieber Republican and vice chair of the Environmental Quality Committee, said time was needed for people to see the effects of Senate Bill 54.

“We just hammered restaurants with the $20-an-hour minimum wage,” Dahle said, adding that the Legislature should back away from further regulations.

Dahle also noted that the single-use requirement in Blakespear's bill would take effect next year, giving restaurants little time to transition.

Caroline Menjivar, a San Fernando Valley Democrat and committee member, also opposed the bill. She said Senate Bill 54 already addressed the issue.

“I think it is too premature this time around,” she added.

In an unrelated committee hearing, Assemblymember Matt Haney — a San Francisco Democrat — had a cannabis consumption bill pass out of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and advance to the Assembly floor.

Assembly Bill 1775 would enable local governments to authorize cannabis businesses to make and sell non-cannabis food and nonalcoholic beverages. Those businesses could also host and sell tickets for live performances.

A similar bill was vetoed last year by Governor Gavin Newsom, who expressed concern over smoke-free workplaces. Haney has said he’s working to address those concerns.

Supporters said existing law already allows local jurisdictions to permit on-site cannabis consumption businesses. Haney’s bill would allow them to serve food and listen to live music.

“It’s probably not a big surprise that I wasn’t a big supporter of Prop 64, but it is the law of the land,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey, a Palmdale Republican and former member of law enforcement, referring to the ballot measure that legalized cannabis in California. “I believe you deserve to be successful. Right now, the illicit market has an unfair advantage.”

Courtesy: www.missoulacurrent.com

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