This past Tuesday, Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. signed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores, making California the first state to ban plastic bags. The law will take effect in July 2015, when plastic bags will be phased out of stores and supermarkets including Wal-Mart and Target. Retailers are also allowed to charge a 10 cent fee for using paper bags.
Plastic bag manufacturers immediately began to work to repeal the law. Lee Califf, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), a group operating under SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, stated that Senate Bill 270 will jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets.
The bill s author, Senator Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles), explained, For those folks concerned about the 10 cent fee that may be charged for paper, the simple elegant solution is to bring a reusable bag to the store.
However, as we ve written before, reusable bags may not be such a simple elegant solution. A University of Arizona study found that over 99 percent of reusable bags they tested harbored some types of bacteria, including E. Coli an index of possible fecal contamination. This is a major public health concern, especially considering a study found only three percent of people who used reusable bags washed them. Also, three out of four people who used reusable bags did not use separate bags for meat and vegetables, which creates potential for cross-contamination of foods.
If the law goes into effect, California shoppers, as well as any user of reusable bags should be informed of the importance of frequently washing these bags and using separate bags for meat and vegetables in order to avoid contamination.