California bill proposes charge for bags

April 15, 2008 10:07:06 AM PDT
There is a new effort underway to discourage us from using plastic bags at the grocery store. The bottom line? The convenience will cost you.

"Everything is getting higher," says shopper Ron Holt.

Given that food prices rose four percent last year and are forecasted to go up another four percent this year, some consumers are relieved a proposal to add on a plastic bag fee is having a tough time getting out of its first committee.

"If you have to pay 15 cents per bag and you get eight bags of groceries, it adds up," says Holt.

Under Assemblyman Lloyd Levine's bill, if retailers don't reduce the number of plastic bags they give out, they must charge 15 cents for each one.

The goal is to discourage use since they often end up as litter.

Californians use more than 19 billion plastic grocery bags a year. That's about 550 per person.

"I understand the concern over high grocery prices. The key is it's an avoidable fee. All you have to do see what I do, and what thousands of other Californians do -- bring a re-usable grocery bag to the store," says Assemblyman Lloyd Levine.

Some stores have eased away from plastic bags. Ikea is already charging 5 cents a bag. But most retailers, though, provide an on-site recycling bin, a requirement that went into effect less than a year ago.

"We haven't even seen the first results of that law. Those numbers will come out in mid-May. We'd like to see what they are before we start charging ahead and banning bags or charging fees on bags," says Bill Dombrowski of the CA Retailers Association.

Assemblyman Levine must convince enough members of the Natural Resources Committee to pass his bag fee. It is clear, if the fee were in effect, many consumers would change their ways.

"I'd probably recycle them more and like I said, I would keep on bringing my own bags to the store instead of paying the 15 to 20 cents" says shopper Jerry Lemon.

That very same committee will also consider another proposal that would tack on another 25 cents per plastic bag. In both proposals, that money would go towards litter prevention programs.

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