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Now that the Plastic Bag Ban has Failed, What's Next?

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The effort to ban single-use plastic and paper bags from grocery stores failed to win support in the State Senate last night, effectively killing the bill. Now there's talk of next steps, which a coalition of local leaders had previously warned of.

"We are now going to turn our attention to all the pending local regulations," explained Matt King, a spokesperson for Heal the Bay, which sponsored Assembly Bill 1998. "We and retailers had hoped for a uniform policy statewide but now a patchwork of local measures will continue the momentum. A grassroots movement has been built and it won’t be stopped - no matter how much money the American Chemistry Council throws at misleading campaigns."

The California Grocers Association. California Retailers Association. and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) all called for a uniform and environmentally sound single-use bag policy statewide.

"I’m pretty sure that the grocers and retailers aren’t too thrilled by the prospect of 60+ different municipal and county bag ban and fee ordinances," said Heal the Bay President Mark Gold, who likened arguments from Senate opposition to ideas "straight out of Lewis Carroll."

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"We had Sen. Sam Aanestad oppose the bill on environmental grounds, including greenhouse gas emissions," Gold said.

Los Angeles County Supervisors are expected to vote on a local plastic bag ban for unincorporated areas. It would prohibit supermarkets and retail spaces of more than 10,000 square feet, and pharmacies from issuing plastic carryout bags. County environmental documents can be used by cities to create their own bans. Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach are working towards bans and Redondo Beach and Los Angeles leaders support going in that direction. Malibu already has one in place.

Cities across the state spend around $25 million collecting and disposing plastic bag waste, says Heal the Bay. About 19 billion single-use plastic bags are used in California each year, but only 5% are recycled. They can last 500 years in a landfill.