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San Diego moves to ban single-use plastic bags

San Diego moves to ban single-use plastic bags
Trash, including plenty of plastic bags, overflows from bins at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. (Peggy Peattie / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to ban single-use plastic bags at large grocery stores, pharmacies and corner markets — becoming one of the last major cities in California to limit the disposable products.

"Citizens across the state have demonstrated the ability to transition to more sustainable, reusable bags," council President Sherri Lightner said. "I strongly believe that now is the time to demonstrate local leadership on this issue and make a clear statement that we value our environment."

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Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he planned to sign the ordinance, which would make San Diego the 150th municipality in California with a ban on plastic checkout bags, which often end up in landfills or as litter in storm drains, rivers, canyons and beaches.

A second reading of the ordinance is expected within a few weeks. Once finalized, the rules would give large food stores about six months to comply; smaller drug and convenience stores would get about one year.

The city's policy comes a few months ahead of a referendum vote in the fall general election on whether to uphold a statewide prohibition on single-use checkout bags.

After California in 2014 passed the nation's only statewide ban on such products, the plastics industry launched a signature drive to overturn the law, criticizing it as a tax on shoppers and an ineffective way to fight pollution.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance has raised more than $6.4 million — funded largely by out-of-state bag manufacturers — to overturn the statewide ban. If that effort is successful, municipal bans — including San Diego's — would remain in place.

San Diego officials said that based on statistics from Los Angeles County, which adopted its ban in 2010, customers eventually will bring their own reusable bags for about 65% of purchases at grocery stores and other retailers, eliminating about 95% of all single-use plastic bags distributed in the city.

Smith writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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