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Statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, fee for other bags proposed

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SACRAMENTO — Many more Californians would have to pay for paper or reusable plastic bags at the grocery store under a new agreement by key state lawmakers that would ban other plastic bags.

After three unsuccessful attempts to outlaw single-use plastic grocery bags statewide, legislators announced a compromise Thursday that they said appears headed for passage. Their proposal would impose a 10-cent fee on alternative bags while banning single-use plastic bags.

"This breaks a decade-long deadlock on a statewide solution," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. "This bill is going to eliminate some 20 billion single-use plastic bags that become waste, that become litter."

The new proposal would exempt those on food stamps from the fee and would be phased in starting July 2015.

While lawmakers battled over the issue, plastic grocery bag bans were approved in 90 cities and counties in California, including Los Angeles city and county.

Some legislators had worried that businesses in their districts would be hurt. But some lawmakers who led the opposition in recent years support the new compromise, which would allow grocers to charge at least a dime for bags made of recycled paper, reusable plastic and compostable materials.

In addition, the state would allow businesses to tap $2 million in recycling funds to retool manufacturing plants and retrain workers who make plastic bags.

"We will reduce quite dramatically the scourge of the plastic bags on our beaches and in the L.A. River, and at the same time we will grow jobs," said state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who has recently garnered sufficient support to become the next president pro tem of the Senate.

The new measure, whose formal name will be SB 270, would require reusable bags to contain 20% recycled content at first and 40% by 2020.

The 10-cent fee is intended to reimburse retailers for the cost of providing alternative bags and to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to the store, De Leon said.

The ban on single-use plastic bags would apply to supermarkets and large grocery stores starting July 1, 2015, and would extend to pharmacies and liquor stores in 2016.

A coalition of bag makers led by Hilex Poly of South Carolina denounced the proposal Thursday.

"It's yet another job-killing, big grocer cash grab masquerading as an environmental bill," said Mark Daniels, an executive with Hilex Poly and chairman ofthe American Progressive Bag Alliance, a trade group.

Gov. Jerry Brown does not have a public position on the proposal, a spokesman said.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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