Many California shoppers will no doubt move to bringing their own bags with them when they shop, in the wake of a bill passed by the California Assembly to ban pharmacies and grocery, liquor and convenience stores from giving out plastic bags. Further, such stores must then charge for paper bags that they use for goods customers buy.
The goal, according to the sponsors of the bill, is to make a dent in the sheer volume of used plastic bags that blow through the air and otherwise litter the streets, land, waterways, and seafronts of the nation's most populous state.
Other countries have already adopted such bans, most notably China in 2008. Similar efforts are under way in Bangladesh, Ireland, and South Africa.
San Francisco, in 2007, required its large drug stores and supermarkets to issue recyclable paper and compostable plastic bags. Since then, other cities have followed suit.
The number of used plastic bags numbers in the billions ever year. Most bags are made of plastic that doesn't break down easily, meaning that even if they make it to their intended destination a landfill they will take many years to degrade and be able to meld with the land.
In recent years, however, a push toward making plastic bags more recyclable has gained traction.
The California bill, which has the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, still must be passed by the state's upper house, the Senate. Given the high profile of the measure and its support by the California Grocers Association and other related groups, however, passage seems likely.