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Plastic bags officially banned in California
plastic bags ban pic
Plastic bags will not be available for free in California grocery stores come July 2015. - photo by Journal file photo

• Prohibits, beginning July 1, 2015, grocery stores and pharmacies from making available single-use plastic bags.
• Prohibits, beginning July 1, 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores from making available single-use plastic bags.
• Grandfathers in existing local ordinances.
• Provides up to $2 million in competitive loans to businesses transitioning to the manufacture of reusable bags.

“Paper or plastic?” This commonly asked question at grocery stores across the country will soon be rendered obsolete as Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will prohibit stores from offering single-use plastic bags at check out.

Grocery stores and pharmacies will be the first to be affected as Jan. 1, 2015 marks the beginning of the phasing out of the plastic bags while convenience and liquor stores will stop come July 2015. According to CalRecycle, only three percent of plastic bags of the 13 billion plastic bags that retailers annually hand out are recycled in California.

“California policy makers have made a clear and strong statement in enacting the bag ban: Producers are responsible for the end of life of their products. If a product is too costly to society and the environment, California is prepared to move to eliminate it,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.

It is estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars to dispose of and clean-up single-use plastic bags.

According to the U.S. Marine Debris Monitoring Program, single-use plastic bags are estimated to compose 60 to 80 percent of all marine debris as well as 90 percent floating debris worldwide. While the bags prove harmful to wildlife that inhabits the environment, consumers used to utilizing their plastic bags for reasons other than groceries may have to find another alternative.

“A lot of our customers use the paper and plastic bags to line their garbage cans at home,” explained Casey Evans, head clerk at Fresh Market Grocery in Turlock.

While Evans has noted a significant increase in the number of customers using reusable bags sold at Fresh Market in the past year, he stated that the majority of customers opt for paper or plastic options, especially if customers forget their reusable bags or purchased more groceries than will fit in the bags they brought.

While California is the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, 98 local governments covering more than 127 cities and counties have already adopted banned bag ordinances. While customer will certainly be affected by the new law, the key for stores in the upcoming months seems to be to adapt.

“As far as business goes there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Evans. “Plastic will just no longer be an option.”