May 18 - Plastic Bag Recycling Bill Passes CA Assembly

Legislation aimed at reducing plastic bag litter and waste passed the California State Assembly today by a vote of 44-29.

Assembly Bill 2449, by Assembly Member Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), requires grocery stores and supermarkets to take back plastic bags for reccling, and provide consumers with a bag reuse opportunity.

"Californians use over 19 billion plastic grocery and merchandise bags a year, creating 147,038 tons of unnecessary waste," Levine said. "That's enough plastic waste to circle the planet over 250 times per year."

Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste, sponsor of the legislation, said "Recycling efforts so far have been minimal and ineffectual. Despite a number of grocery stores with collection areas for bags, the recycling rate in the year 2000 was only one percent."

Plastic bags proliferate in the environment. Easily caught in California breezes, they get snagged in trees, they clog storm drains, and they litter our roads, rivers and beaches. Local governments spend millions of dollars every year in an effort to clean them up.

"Plastic litter can be deadly in the marine environment," Levine stated. "Every year, plastic debris - such as bags - kills wildlife through entanglement, suffocation, starvation and ingestion.”

Data collected during California’s annual Coastal Cleanup and the 1999 Pilot Litter Study by the Department of Conservation indicates that disposable retail bags represent some of the most commonly littered items. Plastic bags are easily carried by wind from uncovered trashcans and dumpsters, vehicles, and solid waste facilities including landfills.

The Los Angeles River Cleanup in April 2004, found that plastic film and bags constituted 45 percent of the litter they collected by volume. Litter collection for beaches, state highways, cities and counties cost the state $303.2 million each year.

Researchers estimate that plastic rubbish is responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles a year in the North Pacific alone.

"My bill is a modest first step to reduce the number of bags in the environment by giving consumers an easy way to recycle them," Levine added. "I also hope that having the recycling area in the stores will help educate consumers about the serious problems plastic bags cause. I'm hopeful it will encourage them to switch to reusable canvas bags, which actually hold much more than their plastic counterparts."

California would be just the second state to pass this type of ‘retailer responsibility’ legislation, following Rhode Island. AB 2449 now goes to the State Senate.

For more information on this and other recycling policy issues, go to: