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Local News

Local Businesses Weigh In on Assembly’s Vote to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags

New law would take effect in 2012; in March, the Santa Barbara council tabled the idea of a bag tax

Shoppers may need to find a new way to carry groceries home, now that the Assembly has voted for a bill banning all grocery stores, pharmacies and liquor stores in California from distributing single-use plastic bags, beginning in 2012. The state Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this summer.

“Businesses are split on this issue,” said Brendan Huffman, director of the Chambers of Commerce Alliance of Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties. “Many are staying out of this debate, since they recognize that it is the consumers who will really be affected.”

Montecito Village Grocery has used only recyclable paper bags during the 13 years that manager Jackie Estrada has worked there.

“If I was the consumer, I would hate paying for bags,” Estrada said. “I would run out and buy my own reusable bags.”

Under Assembly Bill 1998, even paper bags would come with a price tag, since they take a large amount of energy to produce.

“The change would be huge,” Isla Vista Market manager Lee Johnson said. “We’ve tried pretty hard to give out a lot of reusable bags, and we aren’t seeing them back in the store. Still, I bet many of the students would pay money for the convenience.”

Convenience has a price. According to Santa Barbara’s “Where’s Your Bag?” Web site, Californians throw away 600 plastic bags per second and use 19 billion plastic bags per year. The site states that disposable bags eat through nonrenewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas, and says that hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles and birds die every year from eating plastic bags.

The use of plastic bags costs taxpayers an estimated $25 million a year to clean up California’s coast.

The city of Santa Barbara’s “Where’s Your Bag?” campaign has been working to educate the public about the negative impact on the environment and to encourage customers to bring in reusable bags when they shop.

This new bill comes months after the Santa Barbara City Council tabled the possibility of a single-use bag tax. Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilman Das Williams firmly supported putting the measure before voters, but the council majority opposed the tax and the money it would take to add it to the ballot.

“Plastic bags have a significant impact on the environment,” said Kira Redmond, director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. “The city has been reluctant to impose a fee for disposable bags, but a statewide ban would have an obvious positive impact. We hope the governor signs it.”

Noozhawk intern Andrea Ellickson, a UCSB graduate, is a journalism student at SBCC. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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