Ban on plastic grocery bags rejected by state Senate

A shopper uses a plastic bag at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO -- A proposal to ban single-use plastic grocery bags in California is dead for the year after it failed to win passage by a deadline in the state Senate on Thursday.

It was the third time since 2010 that such a bill has stalled in the Legislature amid heavy lobbying by the plastics industry.


The measure by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would have banned the bags from large retailers in 2015 and from smaller stores in 2016. Stores would have been able to sell recyclable paper bags and reusable plastic or cloth grocery bags to customers.

Padilla said only 5% of the single-use plastic bags get recycled and the rest end up littering California streets, parks and beaches. As a result, the bags are a serious environmental problem, said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

“They end up in our landfills. They end up in our oceans. They end up in the bellies of our wildlife. They are not necessary,” Jackson said during the lengthy floor debate.

But the measure failed on a 18-17 vote, three votes short of the majority needed for passage. A half-dozen Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure, while others abstained.


Opponents said the bill would cost 2,000 jobs in the plastics industry in California, many of them in working-class communities.

“This bill is an attack on low economic areas,” said Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello). “It’s an attack on minority-owned small business.”


Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) said he was “bombarded” with phone calls from Hollywood celebrities and residents of Malibu, who he chided because some beaches they want to protect in that city have not been easy for the general public to access.

“This is about jobs,” he said. Other lawmakers said the state would do better to educate the public to resuse bags and not to litter.


“Too many times we try to legislate for bad behavior,” said Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona).


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