September 1 – Statewide Plastic Bag Ban Fails

San Diego Coastkeeper® looks to local cities for continued leadership

SAN DIEGO, September 1, 2010- During the final hours of the state’s legislative session, California State Senators voted 14 – 21 to reject AB 1998, a statewide bill that would have banned single-use plastic bags. The bill was intended to help shift the public to reusable bags by prohibiting grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores from offering free single-use bags.

An alliance of environmental, business and community groups supported the bill, which had already passed the state Assembly and a number of Senate committees. The Governor’s office had publicly encouraged the Senate to pass the bill and said he would sign it if it came to his desk before the end of the legislative session at midnight yesterday.

Locally, San Diego Coastkeeper, the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and a number of active individuals helped garner support for the bill and communicate the positive impacts it would have in the county. In San Diego County alone, four cities (Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Solana Beach and Del Mar), ten City Council members, two Port Commissioners, one County supervisor, three waste management associations, the San Diego Green Chamber of Commerce, and hundreds of individuals wrote or signed letters of support for AB 1998, showing widespread support for plastic reduction in the region.

Senator Christine Kehoe, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, reflected the wishes of her district by showing leadership when the bill was on the floor and in her committee. However, South Bay Senator Denise Ducheny and North County Senator Mark Wyland both voted against the bill, despite hundreds of requests from their constituents to support it. San Diego Coastkeeper also met with their offices repeatedly to educate them about the benefits of reducing single-use plastics.

Environmental groups proposed the bill because it would have dramatically reduced the number of non-biodegradable bags in the environment and help tackle the overwhelming amount of plastic marine debris in the Pacific Ocean. The California Grocers Association actively lobbied for the bill because of the costs of free single-use bags and the growing patchwork of regulations created as cities pass their own ordinances. Waste managers supported the bill because plastic bags are inefficient to recycle and gum-up trash sorting machinery, thus filling up landfills.

The bill’s active opposition came primarily from the American Chemistry Council, a petro-chemical industry and plastic lobbying group who reportedly provided campaign contributions to a number of California senators voting against the bill.
San Diego Coastkeeper looks forward to working with San Diego County municipalities to implement ordinances restricting single-use plastic distribution and continuing to push for statewide, uniform policies for reducing marine debris.


Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit us online at Coastkeeper is a trademark and service mark licensed by Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc.