A controversial bill to charge shoppers 25 cents for every plastic and paper bag they get from the grocery store has passed its first Legislative hearing at the State Capitol.
AB 68 would require consumers to shell out a quarter for every bag supplied by drug stores, as well.
Assemblywoman Julie Brownley (D), Santa Monica is the author of the bill that's designed to reduce plastic bag litter. Brownley says Californians pay $300 million every year, to clean up plastic bags from rivers and the ocean, harming marine life.
"As consumers, we've picked up some bad habits without thinking about the consequences," Julia Brownley said.
"California disposes of 19 billion plastic bags a year and many of them wind up in the ocean injuring and killing marine life. AB 68 will impose a fee of 25 cents a bag, enabling us to dramatically reduce litter and save close to $300 million a year in clean-up costs. Just look at Ireland. Since 2007, the Irish have reduced their plastic bag consumption by over 90 percent by imposing a 33-cent per bag fee."
By charging fees at the store, supporters say consumers will be more likely to try reusable bags. Shopper Mary Peardon agrees. "I think it's a great idea," she said today, "because it would remind me I have some in the car, some cloth ones and I came in without one." Peardon added, "I would go right back out for them if it was 25 cents a bag."
But many shoppers we talked to don't like the idea of shelling out more money.
"I don't like it, " declared Nafeesah Al-Muqtadir, a shopper in Sacramento. "Of course, we don't like fees," she added.
Marcella Dawson, another shopper stated, "Taxes are already coming out of our pockets. We don't have anything else to come out of our pockets, you know what I mean?"
At the Capitol, timing is everything. Taking more money out of people's pockets in the middle of a recession is creating big concerns for many consumers, along with California grocers.
"The industry doesn't favor fees," stated Dave Heylen of the California Grocers Association. He then added, "We would rather go towards the route of reduce, reuse and recycle."
Monday, the bill passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a 5-2 vote and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.
Brownley's office says reusable bags are readily available for shoppers at little or no cost.