Politics & Government

California bill would ban plastic bags, charge for paper in stores

"Paper or plastic" no longer would be a choice at grocery checkout lines under a proposed law to ban disposable plastic bags in California's markets and convenience stores.

Assembly Bill 1998 -- written by Assembly Member Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica -- would make California the first state to outlaw the lightweight bags for grocers.

AB 1998 faces a Friday deadline for approval by a state Senate committee or it will die.

If the Senate approves the bill and the governor signs it, supermarkets and other large retailers that sell groceries would be barred from using the bags starting in 2012. The prohibition would extend to convenience stores and smaller grocers in 2013.

The bill aims to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in waterways and in the oceans, where it can harm marine life, and promote the use of reusable plastic or cloth bags or grocery bags made from recycled paper.

Besides the bag ban, the bill would require stores to offer reusable grocery bags for sale and charge at least 5 cents per bag for recycled paper bags. Stores would be be allowed -- but not required -- to give free paper bags to customers in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

Stores caught using plastic grocery bags after the law takes effect could be fined up to $500 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for repeated violations. The ban doesn't apply to retailers that don't sell food or pharmacy goods, including clothing stores, department stores or home-improvement stores.

If the ban passes, some think it could add to the financial strain of Valley shoppers who already are pinching pennies.

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