Many cities in the San Francisco Bay Area have already banned single-use plastic bags. The Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association is urging remaining cities to do so. The association found that plastic bags contribute to 8% of litter in a 2012 baseline survey of Bay Area litter. Not only are bags a significant percentage of litter, sunlight and water cause plastic bags to break down into smaller toxic pieces that animals consume, and plastic bags are often transported via stormwater systems.
In their stormwater permit, Bay Area counties are required to meet a 40% reduction in trash loads to local waterways by 2014. In the last 2 years, San Jose has seen an 8% reduction in plastic bag litter. According to San Jose, U.S. retailers provide 38 billion single-use paper and plastic bags to their customers annually, yet a reusable bag can replace 600 single-use plastic bags over its lifetime.
A state-level ban of plastic bags could even be a reality by 2015. Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced AB 158, which would ban bags from large retailers.