Proposed Plastic Bag Ban Amended, Minimum 5-Cent Charge Deleted

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As the opposition began airing messages to the public about the prospect of California banning plastic and other single-use bags, Santa Monica Assemblymember Julia Brownley announced today that she has amended her bill in hopes of gaining broader support.

The biggest change is the removal of language that would have charged customers, who did not bring reusable bags, at least five cents for a recycled paper bags made of 40 percent post-consumer material. Now grocers will only be able to charge a price that only reflects the store’s cost of a bag. Shoppers on a food stamp or WIC program will be able to get bags for free.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents the plastic bag industry, recently launched an ad campaign calling the bill a "billion dollar hidden grocery tax."

Additional changes to AB 1998 include retaining in-store plastic bag recycling program, which originally would have been canceled once the ban went into affect, and the creation of a grant and loan program to help keep in-state jobs at "businesses where reusable, durable plastic and non-plastic bags are made," according to Brownley's office.

The bill must go to the Senate Floor for a vote on Monday or Tuesday. If passed there, it will go back to the Assembly, which approved an earlier version of the bill, for a concurrence vote on the changes. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has already signaled his support for the ban.

It would go into effect in 2012 for supermarkets and large pharmacies and in 2013 for smaller grocery stores, convenience and liquor stores.