SACRAMENTO - The state Assembly has approved legislation that would impose the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.
SB270 passed on a 44-29 vote Thursday after failing to advance earlier in the week. It now heads to the Senate, where it must be approved by Sunday.
Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles said his bill will reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that cost millions of dollars to cleanup.
SB270 also authorizes retailers to charge 10-cent fees for paper and reusable bags. Opponents of both parties say the fee unfairly punishes customers.
Plastic bag manufacturers have lobbied heavily against the bill, saying it will cost 2,000 manufacturing jobs in California. An influential grocer's union, which had withdrawn its support earlier, now backs the bill.
Republican Assem.Tim Donnelly voted against the bill, arguing that the ban is an attack on personal freedom and that it will create an enforcement burden.
"So are we going to have plastic bag police climbing under your kitchen sink to see if you've used the bag a hundred times before you throw it out? Who has time in this day and age to wash their plastic bag out?" Donnelly said after Thursday's vote.
But one of the bill's co-author's insists the ban will not only help the environment, but help the economy by developing an industry around reusable bags made of recycled plastic.
"This is going to be very big for California because now there's emerging companies that are now pulling agricultural plastic, millions of pounds that are right now going to the landfill, there's an incentive in this bill to now clean that plastic, put it back to use, and recycle it," Democratic Assem. Luis Alejo said.