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Paper please: California voters approve plastic bag ban

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California's ban on single-use plastic carryout bags will stay in effect after voters narrowly approved the policy, according to preliminary results Thursday.

Proposition 67 was placed on Tuesday's ballot by plastic bag industry supporters to try to overturn a ban approved by the state legislature two years ago. The measure was approved with a 52 percent majority.

"California voters have taken a stand against a deceptive, multi-million dollar campaign by out-of-state plastic bag makers," said Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste, co-chair of the campaign. "This is a significant environmental victory that will mean an immediate elimination of the 25 million plastic bags that are polluted in California every day, threatening wildlife."

A coalition of environmental groups, grocers and others led the campaign to uphold the statewide ban.

Plastic companies and bag manufacturers spent more than $6 million to place Proposition 67, and a tandem measure, Proposition 65, on the ballot.

Lee Califf, the executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which led the campaign to repeal the statewide ban, issued a concession statement.

"With the narrow approval of Proposition 67 California voters have unfortunately set themselves up for a serious case of buyer's remorse," Califf said. "Plastic bag bans don't meaningfully reduce overall waste or litter or provide a positive environmental impact, but they do threaten tens of thousands of American manufacturing jobs, hit consumers in the wallet and drive people to use less environmentally friendly carryout options."

California voters also rejected Proposition 65, which would have funneled bag fees to a fund to support environmental programs in the form of grants administered by the California Wildlife Conservation Board, Califf said.

"Now, instead of bag fees going to an environmental fund, grocers will keep hundreds of millions of dollars in new profits without providing any public benefit. This type of special interest giveaway cloaked in false environmentalism sets a terrible public policy precedent - one that Californians will likely soon regret at the checkout," Califf said.

Environmental groups and other critics say the issue was put on the ballot to confuse voters.

In 2007, San Francisco banned plastic shopping bags, setting off a movement that led nearly half the state and its biggest cities to do the same. Two years ago, the Legislature passed a statewide ban that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law.

More than 150 California communities already have local plastic bag bans in place. The passage of Proposition 67 extends the ban to the remainder of the state. The law will take effect immediately.

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