Statewide plastic bag ban could benefit Northstate economy

CHICO, Calif. - With California on the verge of banning single-use plastic shopping bags, three Butte County reusable bag companies stand to benefit.

Senate Bill 270 passed the assembly Thursday and could be approved by the senate in the coming weeks before heading to Governor Jerry Brown's desk.

It would ban single-use shopping bags at grocery stores and pharmacies, and require those businesses to instead provide shopping bags capable of at least 120 uses, at a cost of 10 cents to California shoppers.

Chico-based Chico Bag president and inventor Andy Keller said his company has been petitioning for the state to adopt a bag ban for years.

For Chico Bag, the ban would be a big money maker, but it also would help them push their message of sustainability.

"Everyone here is very happy about it. It helps us achieve our mission but obviously people are going to need reusable bags," Keller said.

Keller said it wouldn't only be his company that would benefit.

"There's already three reusable bag companies in Butte County," he said. "There's great opportunity for entrepreneurship, for job creation in this state because of this legislation."

Still, the plastic bag industry has pushed back, using millions of dollars to fight previous attempts to pass a single-use plastic bag ban in the state.

And not all consumers are ready for the change.

"I think it's the stupidest thing I've ever seen," said Bob Locey after a shopping trip at Save Mart in Chico.

Locey said he's already recycling the plastic bags he gets from stores.

"We use them for garbage, I put stuff in them. I don't toss them out anywhere."

Unfortunately, millions of bags are ending up in landfills every year, at a cost to the environment and waste collectors.

Keller said that's why California is so close to passing the single-use plastic bag ban.

"In the end, what's best for the people comes through, typically."

Hopes for Keller are to expand on his staff of 27 if they're able to get more of a foothold in the reusable bag industry.

"I think common sense has brought it to this point, where it's gone further than it's ever gone, and it looks like it's going to pass. And when it does go through, it'll be surreal for me because it's been a long road."

A road that could lead to an economic boost in Northern California.

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