California governor signs plastic bag ban

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law Tuesday the first statewide ban on grocery and other single-use plastic bags.

The law takes effect for grocery stores and pharmacies in July 2015, and convenience and liquor stores a year later.

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“This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The law also provides $2 million in loans to help businesses transition away from plastic bags.

More than 120 local government agencies in California already ban plastic bags in some way.

Dozens of municipalities and counties around the country also ban plastic bags or require fees for them, including the District of Columbia. Each of Hawaii’s four publicly accessible counties also has a ban.

Environmental groups applauded California’s ban as a measure that will protect the environment and waterways in particular from plastic pollution.

“From the thousands of sea turtles that are now safer from plastic bags to the thousands of volunteers who remove these bags from our beaches and rivers, this bill means a cleaner ocean for everyone,” Nathan Weaver, the clean water organizer for Environment California, said in a statement.

“California policy makers have made a clear statement in enacting the bag ban: Producers are responsible for the end of life impacts of their products,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, said in a statement.

“If a product is too costly to society and the environment, California is prepared to move to eliminate it,” he said.