On October 1, California Jerry Brown signed a bill into law banning single-use plastic bags in the state of California—the first state-wide ban on plastic bag use in the country. Beginning July 2015, grocery stores, drugstores and food retailers will no longer be permitted to hand out plastic bags. In 2016, smaller stores will be required to uphold the new law banning single-use plastic bags.
The environmental community is thrilled about this groundbreaking new law, which has gained nationwide attention. California continually sets the bar high for progressive, eco-friendly measures. Back in 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. municipality to ban plastic shopping bags. In intervening years upwards of 132 other cities and counties in 18 states and the District of Columbia instituted similar measures.
There are countless arguments for banning plastic bag use, such as the fact that they don’t degrade (meaning they sit in landfills or at the bottom of the ocean for hundreds of years), their production requires the use of precious fossil fuels, and both land and sea animals mistake them for food, and they suffer injuries or death after ingestion. In the end they are just plain wasteful, and there are many harmful drawbacks to a product engrained in many Americans’ lifestyles.
Environmental groups continue to push for more plastic bag bans. The Earth Policy Institute says, “As U.S. natural gas production has surged and prices have fallen, the plastics industry is looking to ramp up domestic production. Yet using this fossil fuel endowment to make something so short-lived, which can blow away at the slightest breeze and pollutes indefinitely, is illogical—particularly when there is a ready alternative: the reusable bag.”
For many, using reusable bags isn’t natural yet, but that can be changed. Keep a stash in your trunk, write reminder notes to leave on your car’s dashboard so you don’t forget to bring them in the store, and start encouraging others to do the same. Stock up on some high-quality bags, and you’ll soon realize that they are worth the investment—and you’re helping make the Earth a greener place!