Local and state-wide attempts to reduce plastic bag distribution have failed in recent years due to lobbying efforts funded by the American Chemistry Council. In September of this year, California failed to pass AB 1998 despite having the support of Governor Schwarzenegger and passing in the state House.
Washington, D.C., however, passed a city-wide fee on paper and plastic bags in June 2009 with a unanimous city council vote.
How did they do this? The ordinance was championed by City Councilman Tommy Wells, whose staff devised a campaign that placed a 5 cent fee on each single-use bag and used the revenue to pay for clean up of the heavily polluted Anacostia River. Outreach efforts from the DC Surfriders and the founder of the "Greater, Greater Washington" website resulted in a successful social media campaign that included blogs, YouTube videos, and online discussions.
Wells was also strategic in his early communication and coalition building efforts, gaining support from the grocery stores, religious groups, and leaders of low-income communities in D.C.