BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 1998
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   May 5, 2010

                                Felipe Fuentes, Chair

                  AB 1998 (Brownley) - As Amended:  April 20, 2010 

          Policy Committee:                              Natural  

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program:  
          No     Reimbursable:              No


          This bill prohibits a store from distributing single-use bags.   
          Specifically, this bill:

          1)As of January 1, 2012, prohibits a supermarket, larger  
            pharmacy or convenience store from distributing a single-use  
            bag made of plastic, paper or other material and requires the  
            retailer to offer for sale reusable bags.

          2)Requires the Department of Recycling and Resource Recovery to:

             a)   Administer and enforce the provisions of this bill.

             b)   Determine whether a reusable bag distributed by retailer  
               contains lead or other heavy metals.

             c)   Submit a report to the Legislature by January 1, 2015,  
               on the effectiveness of this bill.

           FISCAL EFFECT  

          1)One-time costs during 2011-12 and 2012-13 of approximately  
            $1.5 million, equivalent to 21 positions, to prepare  
            regulations, assist regulated stores, characterize reusable  
            bags, and develop a program-specific database (Integrated  
            Waste Management Account (IWMA)).

          2)Ongoing cost of approximately $1 million annually, equivalent  
            to 15 positions, beginning in 2013-14, to provide ongoing  
            assistance to regulated stores, conduct site inspections and  
            audits, characterize reusable bags, and maintain database  


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            (Integrated Waste Management Account (IWMA)).

          3)One-time costs of approximately $150,000 in 2013-14 to develop  
            report to Legislature (IWMA).


           1)Rationale  .  The sponsor notes that Californians dispose of  
            billions of plastic bags each year and that these bags-nearly  
            none of which are recycled-are both a nuisance and a danger.   
            These bags, the sponsor continues, trash our cities and  
            contaminate our coasts and oceans, so much so that many parts  
            of the sea contain more plastic than plankton.  Single-use  
            alternatives to plastic bags present their own problems, the  
            sponsor claims.  Paper bags use forest resources and are  
            energy intensive to produce and transport.  "Compostable"  
            single-use bags break down only under ideal conditions, but  
            generally not in landfills and not in the marine environment.   
            The sponsor contends this bill leads to the most reasonable,  
            sustainable alternative to single-use plastic bags-widespread  
            adoption of reusable bags.  

           2)Background  .

              a)   Oceans of Plastic, Polyethylene Streams  .  Numerous  
               studies find the world's oceans are becoming increasingly  
               polluted, the biggest single source of that pollution is  
               mainland runoff, and nearly all of this pollution is  
               plastic.  A gyre of trash, thousands of miles wide and  
               hundreds of feet deep, sits in the Pacific.  Another trash  
               gyre has been discovered in the Atlantic.  Recent academic  
               studies found that, in some parts of the sea, the amount of  
               plastic suspended in the water outweighs the amount of  
               plankton by several tons.  This growing contamination harms  
               sea life, which ingests the tiny plastic bits, swallow  
               large pieces of it whole, or become entangled in it 
                It is difficult to say how much single-use plastic bags  
               contribute to this plastic soup; there has yet to be an  
               academic study identifying in detail the origins of sea  
               born plastic.  But such bags are likely a significant  
               component.  Single-use plastic bags are light and readily  
               catch the wind.  Even when disposed of properly, they fly  
               off the back of garbage trucks and tumble from landfills.   
               Rains collect them from streets and gutters, cast them on  


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               the beaches and sweep them to sea.  Those that don't reach  
               the ocean, or those that simply haven't made it there yet,  
               litter streets and streambeds.  They catch in trees and on  
               chain link fences.  According to the now defunct California  
               Integrated Waste Management Board, the state's municipal  
               governments spend tens of millions of dollars each year  
               collecting the bags.

              b)   Plastic Bags Restricted Around the World  .  Responding to  
               concerns over marine pollution, the nuisance of litter, and  
               the deadly consequences of flash flooding, numerous  
               governments around the world require retailers to charge  
               for single-use plastic bags (Ireland, for example),  
               restrict their use (Mexico City allows distribution of  
               biodegradable plastic bags only), or ban them outright  
               (such as Dhaka, Bangladesh; Mumbai, India; and China).  In  
               California, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland  
               recently banned the bags.
             c)   California Addresses Plastic Bags Too, But to Little  
               Effect.   The state has several programs to encourage more  
               responsible management of waste, including programs for  
               recycling, toxic waste disposal, and storm water  
               management.  In addition, state law requires cities and  
               counties to divert 50% of their solid waste from landfills  
               by 2000.  What's more, state law requires supermarkets and  
               drug stores to establish plastic bag recycling programs.   
               Nonetheless, California recycles only a small fraction of  
               the 19 billion plastic bags it uses each year.  
           3)Are Paper Bags Better  ?  Paper bags do not present the litter  
            problem that single-use plastic bags do.  Because they are  
            flat and weighty, they do not blow away as easily as plastic  
            bags.  And, should they enter the marine environment, they  
            quickly biodegrade.  In addition, paper bags are easily  
            recycled.  Production of the bags, however, consumes valuable  
            timber.  The bags are also relatively energy intensive to  
            produce and to transport.  For these reasons, some do not see  
            single-use paper bags as an ideal substitute for plastic bags.

           4)What If I Forget My Bags  ?  Some express concern that the bill  
            could impose an undue financial burden on customers who forget  
            their reusable bags or who cannot afford to buy them.  This is  
            because each reusable bag costs a dollar or more.  Such  
            customers would have no choice but to purchase the relatively  


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            expensive reusable bags to carry home their groceries, even it  
            they have purchased reusable bags in the past.

           5)Related Legislation  .

              a)   AB 2138 (Chesbro)  , also before this committee, prohibits  
               a food provider from distributing disposable food packaging  
               (including take-out bags) unless the packaging is  
               compostable or recyclable.  

             b)   AB 68 (Brownley, 2009) and AB 87 (Davis, 2009)  both  
               sought to place a 25-cent fee on the distribution of  
               single-use carry-out bags.  Both bills were held by this  

             c)   AB 2058 (Levine, 2007)  would have prohibited the free  
               dispensing of carryout plastic bags by a store to its  
               customers, unless the store can demonstrate to the CIWMB  
               that 35% and 70% of the plastic bags it dispensed in 2007  
               have been diverted from the waste stream by July 1, 2011  
               and July 1, 2012, respectively.  AB 2058 died in Senate  

             d)   AB 2449 (Levine) - Chapter 845, Statutes of 2006  
               requires supermarkets and drug stores to establish plastic  
               bag recycling programs.  AB 2449 also pre-empted local  
               governments from enacting fees on plastic bag use.

           6)Support  .  This bill is supported by numerous environmental  
            groups and American Federation of State, County and Municipal  
            Employees (AFSCME), who argue single-use bags pollute our  
            marine ecosystem, litter our cities, and consume limited  
            resources, including public funds.

           7)Opposition  .  The bill is opposed by several industry groups  
            and the California Taxpayers' Association, who contend  
            single-use bags are affordable, convenient and environmentally  
            benign when managed properly.  Some opponents also argue that  
            banning these bags will needlessly destroy the jobs of the  
            Californians who produce them and raise prices on retail  

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Jay Dickenson / APPR. / (916) 319-2081