California Set To Ban Plastic Grocery Bags

fromKXJZ

California lawmakers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a proposal to phase out and ultimately ban plastic grocery bags statewide. But plastic industry trade groups are lobbying hard and spending thousands to defeat the ban.

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California may soon be the first state to ban plastic bags. A bill before the California Senate would eliminate plastic bags at all major grocery and convenience stores, or at least make them harder to get. California shoppers would have to carry reusable bags or else pay a fee - for paper.�Ida Lieszkovszky reports from Capitol Public Radio in Sacramento.

IDA LIESZKOVSZKY: At a Raleys grocery store in West Sacramento, plastic bags are still very much the norm. Hardly a shopper enters the store prepared to use their own bags.�

Outside, shopper Lisa Sherrod says shes a fan of the proposed ban. She worries about throwing away her plastic bags because they arent biodegradable.

Ms. LISA SHERROD: Thats the only way theyre ever going to get us away from our addiction to plastic bags. If we have to do it, well do it. Its just like anything else.

LIESZKOVSZKY: At a recent rally outside the state capitol, environmentalists brought a 25-foot blow-up turtle to make a final push for the bill.�The giant plastic sea creature represented the wildlife activists say is most hurt by a sea full of discarded bags.

Ms. JULIA BROWNLEY (Democratic Assemblywoman): We in California will rid ourselves of our nasty plastic bag habit.

LIESZKOVSZKY: Thats the bills author, Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley. At the rally she likened the fight over the bill to a�David and Goliath battle.

Ms. BROWNLEY: The only real opposition at this point is the American Chemical Council. And believe me, this is their battleground, because they know if California goes so will our neighboring coastal states, Washington and Oregon, and the rest of the country.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Man: Californias in trouble: 2.3 million unemployed, a $19 billion deficit. And what are some California politicians focused on? Grocery bags.

LIESZKOVSZKY: That ad ran on TV in Sacramento.�It was funded by the American Chemistry Council.� Keith Christman manages their plastics market.

Mr. KEITH CHRISTMAN (American Chemistry Council): Its not the highest priority thing California should be dealing with today.

LIESZKOVSZKY: Christman, who's based in Washington, D.C., says hes worried about an estimated 1,000 manufacturing jobs that would be lost in California if plastic bags are outlawed and the cost to taxpayers who will have to buy canvas or paper bags.

Mr. CHRISTMAN: At a time when you do have a $19 billion budget deficit, adding four million in additional costs and hiring a bag police force to tell people how to bag their groceries isnt the right approach.

LIESZKOVSZKY: The Chemistry Council isnt required to report how much theyve spent on their campaign against the bill, and they wont say. But over the summer they have donated thousands to individual California legislators, as have Exxon and Hilex Poly Co., both opponents of the bill. Brownley says shes surprised by how forceful the opposition has been.

Ms. BROWNLEY: Ive never seen a lobbying effort like this before. I mean we see it on television, but you have no idea whats happening in the hallways in this building.

LIESZKOVSZKY: The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today.

For NPR News, Im Ida Lieszkovszky in Sacramento.

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