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San Diego Bans Plastic Bags

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and corner markets.

The goal of the new ordinance is to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags, decreasing the number of plastic checkout bags used every year. San Diego goest through roughly 700 million plastic bags a year, with only 3 percent of them being recycled, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

"The vast majority of plastic bags we see are entangled in the brushes next to our rivers and streams," said Kristin Kuhn, community engagement manager for San Diego Coastkeeper. "After every rain event, these bags clog and choke our city's already damaged waterways."

The city's ban would require grocery stores and other food retailers to charge at least 10 cents for each paper bag or for a sturdier bag, which often cost more.

"Stakeholders have worked tirelessly with local jurisdictions throughout the state to find a solution that makes sense for both the environment and businesses," said Sophie Barnhorst, policy coordinator for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "A ban on plastic and a charge for paper has the potential to achieve maximal environment gain with minimal business disruption."

San Diego's ban—which drew wide support from advocacy organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation's San Diego County chapter and San Diego Coastkeeper as well as the chamber of commerce—makes it the 150th municipality in the Golden State.

A second reading of the ordinance will happen in a few weeks. Large food stores will have six months to comply with the ordinance while smaller drug and convenience stores will have approximately a year.

San Diego has distributed about 40,000 reusable shopping bags to mainly low-income neighborhoods, food banks, schools and libraries to help prepare residents for the ordinance.

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