A proposal to phase out the use of single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores was approved Wednesday by a key Assembly panel despite heavy lobbying efforts by the plastics trade industry, which warned it would cost the state thousands of jobs.
The measure was approved by the Natural Resources Committee, whose chairman, Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), talked about visiting a remote island in the northern Pacific only to find a line of plastic particles littering the beach.
"It's not just an aesthetic offense. It's an offense to the wildlife in the ocean," Chesbro said before the committee voted 5-3 along party lines to approve the measure by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).
The bill would phase in a ban on single-use plastic bags starting in July 2015 and impose a minimum fee of 10 cents for each paper or reusable plastic bags provided to customers at the checkout stand.
"The bill seeks to address the problem that we have of the 14 billion in single-use plastic bags distributed every year through grocery stores and other retail establishments," Padilla said.
About 100 cities and counties in California have already adopted some form of ban or phase-out of single-use bags, including Los Angeles and L.A. County.
The bill was opposed by the American Forest & Paper Assn. for putting a fee on paper bags even though they are easily recycled.
"We think it is a regressive tax on consumers, and there is no need for a fee on paper," Kathryn Lynch, a lobbyist for the group, told the committee.
The measure is also opposed by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents the makers of firms making the bags being banned.
"We see this [fee] revenue as serving no public purpose but going directly to shareholders of companies offering these bags," said Paul Bauer, a lobbyist for the alliance. "We think that transfer of wealth from constituents to shareholders is not in the public interest."
The alliance has been running television ads in California saying that Padilla's bill is "about money and political influence," and payback to the grocery industry for campaign contributions. It urges voters to call their elected representatives and "tell them to say no to Padilla's dirty deal."