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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With the stroke of a pen, California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags at convenience stores and grocery stores.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation, which was spurred by pollution woes, into law on Sept. 30. A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers immediately said it would seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015, according to The Associated Press.
Under the law, plastic bags will be phased out at large grocery stores and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting next summer, and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers, the news outlet reported.
The move also allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.
More than 100 cities and counties in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, already have such bans.
Similar laws have also gone into effect in other cities across the United States, including Chicago, Seattle, and Austin, Texas. Hawaii is also on track to have a de-facto statewide ban, with all counties approving prohibitions, the AP added.
"This bill is a step in the right direction - it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself," Brown said. "We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."
Plastic bag manufacturers have aggressively pushed back through their trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which aired commercials in California against the ban, calling it a cash-giveaway to grocers that would lead to a loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
"If this law were allowed to go into effect, it would 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," Lee Califf, executive director of the manufacturer trade group, said in a statement.
The American Forest and Paper Association, a trade group representing paper bag makers, says the bill unfairly penalizes consumers who use their commonly recycled products, while holding reusable plastic bags to a lower standard for recyclable content.
Responding to the concerns about job losses, the bill includes $2 million in loans for plastic bag manufacturers to shift their operations to make reusable bags. The bill was also amended to waive fees for customers who are on public assistance and limit how grocers can spend the proceeds from the fees, according to the news outlet.
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico all have pending legislation that would ban single-use bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.