California plastic bag ban on hold pending 2016 vote

Opponents of a California plastic bag ban have succeeded in stopping the ban from going into effect July 1 by securing a spot on the 2016 ballot.

The Golden State had been slated to become the first US state to institute such a ban, but Tuesday, state election officials confirmed that the national advocacy group American Progressive Bag Alliance had collected the necessary half million signatures to place the issue before voters. This will stall a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in September until after the 2016 election.

California’s vote will be closely watched, points out sustainability manager Liesel Schwarz from Villanova University near Philadelphia.

“Historically, California has been a trendsetter in environmental initiatives, most notably being their higher fuel standards for cars sold in the state,” Ms. Schwarz says via email.

In recent years, the global trend has tilted toward more fines and outright bans on single-use plastic bags. China, for instance banned their use in 2008 immediately prior to the Olympic Games. A host of European Union countries have either banned or restricted their use and the Indian city of Delhi even provides for prison terms for violations. According to a 2011 investigative report by Rolling Stone, at least 25 percent of the world lives under some form of ban or fines on the use of single-use plastic bags.

In the United States, individual communities have implemented local bans in at least 18 states. In the Golden State, 138 cities and communities – including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose – already ban the single-use plastic bag. However, legislators have been slow to jump on prohibition of plastic bags at the state or national level. Debates over statewide bans have been heated even in blue states, where a large number of municipalities have instituted bans.

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