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Davis, California

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Plastic bag recycling ordinance extended

Plastic bags: In January 2011, UC Davis banned plastic bags on campus, encouraging its students to use reusable bags and charging 25 cents for single-use plastic carryout bags.

On Sept. 19, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure that prolongs Senate Bill (SB) 1219 until Jan. 1, 2020. It was set to sunset on Jan. 1, 2013.
SB 1219 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) requires California grocery stores to have a recycling program for plastic bags. Besides single-use carryout bags, plastic products such as plastic bags for bread, dry cleaning, shrink wrap and other types of plastics are accepted by the recycling programs.
In 2006, Assembly Bill (AB) 2449 was passed, requiring grocery stores to have recycling programs for single-use plastic carryout bags. However, it prohibited California local governments from enacting a fee on such bags, thus many local governments ended up outright banning plastic bags and charging for carryout paper bags.

According to the bill’s analysis, the extension repeals a preemption prohibiting local governments from implementing their own separate plastic bag recycling programs, additional auditing or reporting requirements and fees on plastic bags.

In support of the bill are 1 Bag at a Time, Command Packaging, Western Plastics Association, League of California Cities, California Association of Counties and the Regional Council of Rural Counties.
“One of the things that is helpful for local governments is that it provides a source-separated stream that can be recycled or kept out of the landfill,” said Kyra Ross, a legislative representative of the League of California Cities. “And for us, that’s a very important stream, so separate and apart from the discussions about banning plastic bags or local ordinances that have been talked about or done for that matter, we think having this continued take-back stream is still important in and of itself.”
Having plastic bag recycling programs diverts the bags from ending up in landfills and storm drains.
“We look at this bill as another tool to deal with plastic bags because they are a big problem,” said Cara Martinson, senior legislative analyst for the California State Association of Counties. “We see a lot of these bags and remnants of bags in stormwater drains and causing significant issues on that end.”
SB 1219 is seen as complementary to plastic bag bans.

“Even if you ban plastic bags, there’s still going to [be] a stream of plastic coming through, at least for a certain period of time,” Ross said. “Where it is used, we think this is an important part of the overall stream that keeps plastic bags source-separated. It’s an alternative to showing up in the grocery curbside container or showing up at the landfill.”

Martinson said she considers the bill part of the solution, but not the total solution.

“There are a number of cities and counties in California that have already either instituted bans on plastic bags or have imposed fees,” Martinson said. “I know the rates or the analysis of the bill I’ve read are pretty low for recycling, but I think that coupled with the fact that there are already some bans in place has something to do with it.”

To date, at least 42 California cities have adopted plastic bag bans. According to plasticbaglaws.org, there are still many proposed ordinances that are under discussion.

“SB 1219 provides cities and counties the flexibility to address the issue in a manner that meets the needs of their communities,” Wolk said in a press release. “I applaud the Governor’s decision to continue this successful program.”

Ross said the state will have to take another look at the bill as it gets closer to 2020.

“A lot of that will be dependent on what’s happened to the existing bag bans and whether there is a statewide version of that,” she said.

CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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