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California the first US state to ban plastic bags

United States – California’s governor Jerry Brown has signed America’s first state-wide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, thus following the lead of more than 100 Californian cities and counties. Under the law, funding will be provided for California-based plastic bag companies to develop ‘sturdier, reusable options’.

The ‘landmark legislation’ will take effect at larger stores in July 2015 and will be expanded to smaller businesses in 2016. It covers plastic bags at grocery stores, chemists, convenience stores and off licences. Exempt from the law are: plastic bags provided at grocery stores for produce and meat; and non-food retailers such as those selling clothing and electronics.

California’s waste stream is estimated to attract 14 billion single-use shopping bags each year, of which some 3% were recycled in 2009. From the global perspective, consumers are said to use 2 million plastic shopping bags per minute.

‘This bill is a step in the right direction,’ Brown declares. ‘It reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself. We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.’

But that’s not how it will play out if bag manufacturers have their say. The American Progressive Bag Alliance, for example, has broadcast plans to seek a voter referendum to overturn the law. The group has three months to collect the 500 000 valid signatures required to place a referendum on the November 2016 ballot.

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