They're common sights around any town — abandoned in shopping carts, clogging gutters, strewn by the breeze across parks and front lawns.
For defenders of the environment, plastic grocery bags have long been a source of agony and irritation. Starting this month, though, the state of California is taking action to reign them in. An assembly bill that took effect on July 1 has mandated that a number of grocery stores adopt in-store recycling programs, with collection bins for used bags and reusable bags for sale to customers.
The first week of July, grocery stores throughout Newport-Mesa began setting up bins in front to allow customers to drop in their bags. Marlyn Denter, the public affairs director for Vons, said her stores had been recycling plastic for years and relished the opportunity to open more customers' eyes.
"Those plastic bags we recycle each year would fill the Rose Bowl twice," she said.
Van Nuys Assemblyman Lloyd Levine's, legislation, Assembly Bill 2449, is better known as the Plastic Bag Recycling Act of 2006. Grocery stores that meet a number of size requirements and offer plastic bags to customers must comply with the act, while others may participate voluntarily. The California Grocers Assn. and the California Retailers Assn. have both backed the assembly on the bill.
Clayton Jacobs, the produce manager for Vons in Costa Mesa, said the recycling bins in front had filled quickly since the store implemented them.
"We've always recycled our plastic, and now we have something added," he said.
Some stores weren't on the bill's radar since they only offered paper bags — such as Mother's Market in Costa Mesa, which promotes natural foods. Human resources director Sally Ann Kawamoto said she was pleased, however, by the bill's passage.
"I think it's wonderful," she said. "I'd love to see us be as ecologically sound as we could."