California might become the first state to give a final, decisive answer to the question “paper or plastic?” A proposed bill to nix the use of plastic bags has already cleared the state assembly and senate, but still requires Governor Jerry Brown’s signature in order to become law. The Governor has not taken a stance on the measure, but needs to pass or veto it by the end of the month.

“The bill would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies starting in 2015 and at convenience stores starting in 2016,” reports the New York Times. It would also allow shops to start charging 10 cents for paper and reusable carriers, and divert $2 million to help plastic bag manufacturers make the switch to producing reusable totes.

Photo: Mike Licht,

Photo: Mike Licht,

The measure was hotly debated, with manufacturers (both in and out of state) and environmentalists exerting pressure on lawmakers. Advocacy group Californians Against Waste estimates that the Golden State goes through 13 billion plastic bags every year, but only 3% of them are recycled. The rest end up in landfill and as marine litter, which endangers wildlife and costs the state an estimated $34–$107 million annually to clean up.

Some counties and cities—such as Los Angeles and San Francisco—already prohibit plastic, but previous efforts to ban it state-wide have been blocked by manufacturers, according to Reuters. While Californians can definitely pat themselves on the back for leading this charge, it’s worth noting that Rwanda chucked the non-biodegradable bags back in 2008. And according to the Guardian, the capital Kigali is one of the cleanest, most beautiful cities in Africa.

Guess they just don’t understand American beauty.


[via the New York TimesReuters]