San Jose's ban on plastic bags will help our local creeks, estuaries, parks and highways, which now are littered with billions of bags that never make it to the recycling plant. But what we really need is a statewide law.
The 10-1 City Council vote Tuesday makes San Jose the largest city in the nation to implement a ban. Starting in 2012, single-use plastic bags will be allowed only in restaurants. Stores will have to charge 10 cents for a paper bag, although shoppers on public assistance won't have to pay.
This should encourage the use of reusable totes and stop at least a small portion of the 90 billion plastic bags Americans use every year -- 3.8 billion in the Bay Area alone -- from choking wildlife and fouling public spaces. It's estimated that 1 million bags a year end up in San Francisco Bay.
San Francisco, Oakland and Palo Alto, among others, have passed bans, while Sunnyvale, Fremont, Marin County, Santa Clara County and others are considering similar laws. Good for them -- but a statewide ban is what we need.
It would do the most for the environment, but it also would conserve local government resources and save businesses the expense of complying with a patchwork of regulations. That's partly why grocery stores got behind AB 1998 earlier this year. It passed the Assembly in the summer but died in the Senate after an intense lobbying campaign by the plastic bag industry.
Given the power of lobbyists in Sacramento, local laws may be the best we can do for now. But, fortunately, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't giving up. He's encouraging the Legislature to pass a ban before he leaves office. A lame duck governor doesn't have much sway, but he's right on this.
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