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California to become first US state to ban plastic bags

Under the Californian legislation, single-use plastic bags would disappear from grocery stores and pharmacies from 1 July, 2015.

Image: plastic bag image via Shutterstock

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR JERRY Brown said last night he will approve a ban on single-use plastic bags, in what would make the western US state the first to outlaw them.

Lawmakers passed the bill late last Friday, and it now only requires Brown’s signature to pass into law. The governor must do so before the end of September.

“I probably will sign it, yes,” Democratic veteran Brown said during a televised debate with his Republican election rival Neel Kashkari, who is trailing badly in opinion polls.

“In fact, I’ll tell you why I’m going to sign it: there are about 50 cities with their own plastic bag ban, and that’s causing a lot of confusion,” he said, cited by the Los Angeles Times and other media.

He added: “This is a compromise .. It’s taking into account the needs of the environment, and the needs of the economy and the needs of the grocers.”

In 2002, the Irish government introduced a plastic bag levy and became the first country in the world to do so. The levy resulted in a decrease of over 90% in the number of plastic bags in circulation in the country and encouraged supermarkets to switch to more sustainable bags.

It also raised over €200 million since its introduction.

Under the Californian legislation, single-use plastic bags would disappear from grocery stores and pharmacies from 1 July, 2015, and then from convenience and liquor stores from 1 July, 2016.

The bill would allow stores to charge 10 cents for paper or reusable bags. Similar bans, backed by environmentalists, are already in place in cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A ban is opposed by Republicans who say it would be too much government meddling for small and medium sized businesses, and by bag manufacturers who fear job losses.

Kashkari – who latest polls indicate trails by 50%to 34%for the November 4 gubernatorial post – said he opposes the legislation.

“No chance would I sign that bill,” he said in yesterday’s debate.

- © AFP 2014 with additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: The plastic bag levy has raised over €200 million since 2002>

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