The plastic bag may soon be extinct in California

Mike Krumboltz, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

Is the bell tolling for the plastic bag in the great state of California? The movement to permanently ban the single-use bags is picking up momentum.

Long the bane of anti-pollution advocates and considered by many to be a symbol of waste, plastic bags have already been banned in dozens of California cities, including Los Angeles and San Jose. However, California is now considering a bill that would ban the bags across the entire state.

While California wouldn't be the first to institute such a ban (Hawaii won't allow them starting in July of 2015), it certainly is the biggest.

State Sen. Alex Padilla is a sponsor of the legislation that would ban plastic bags, SB 270. Padilla told the New York Times, "It has become increasingly clear to the public the environmental damage that single-use plastic bags have reaped."

Only a small portion of the plastic bags are recycled, "in large part because they jam sorting machines at recycling plants and so must be separated from other plastics," according to the New York Times.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2011, 89 percent of plastic bags were not recycled in the U.S. Enviroment California reports that Californians throw away 123,000 tons of plastic bags each year.

So what would the bill look like should it become law? The flimsy bags so commonly used at grocery stories and liquor stores (and then seen floating toward storm drains) would be gone. However, handleless plastic bags used in produce sections would still be available.

Additionally, paper bags that include recycled content could be purchased for a small fee, meaning if you forget to bring your own bags, you won't have to carry your groceries in your pockets. Reusable bags would also be available to purchase.

If passed, the first phase of the bill, affecting grocery stores and pharmacies, would begin July 1, 2015. A year later, convenience stores and liquor stores would be subject to the same standard. The bill would not pre-empt local ordinances that are already in place, according to a news release from Padilla's office.

There are some who oppose such bans, saying the fees for bags will end up hurting working class families,  NBC San Diego reports. Mark Daniels, chairman of the trade group American Progressive Bag Alliance, told the Los Angeles Times the bill is "yet another job-killing, big grocer cash grab masquerading as an environmental bill."

The Wall Street Journal reported that skeptics "dispute the idea that there are more practical alternatives to the bags out there. All told, they say, plastic bags end up doing less damage than the substitutes people often turn to — and the benefits that the bags offer far outweigh their cost."

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).

Related: New bill would ban plastic bags in California.