California's plastic bag ban has been put on hold pending a referendum on the law due to take place November 2016 ballot, state elections officials said Tuesday.
The state-wide prohibition had been scheduled to be phased in from July at large grocery stores and supermarkets as a way to cut down on litter and protect marine life.
But a trade group has forced a vote on the matter after garnering enough signatures to qualify a referendum.
Officials said that based on a random sample of 800,000 names submitted by the American Progressive Bag Alliance at the end of last year, opponents to the ban had mustered 555,000 names — more than the 505,000 needed to force a vote.
The development comes after a fierce legislative battle, which had pitted bag-makers against environmentalists, resulted in California Gov. Jerry Brown signing the bill into law last fall. But the American Progressive Bag Alliance said the ban amounts to a cash giveaway to grocers that would lead to a loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs. The alliance says Californians now have a chance to weigh in.
Supporters of the statewide ban criticized manufacturers for spending millions on the referendum campaign in order to continue selling plastic bags. "This is a cynical ploy by out-of-state interests desperate to delay a ban already adopted in more than 100 communities across California," Brown's spokesman Evan Westrup said.
Mark Murray, a spokesman for Californians vs. Big Plastic, said the coalition of environmental, labor and business groups is confident that Californians will uphold the existing statewide ban. "It's not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98 percent of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits," Murray said.
California was to begin pulling plastic bags out of checkout counters at large grocery stores such as Wal-Mart and Target this summer. The ban was scheduled to expand to convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016.
The Associated Press