Environmental activists are pushing the state Legislature to pass Assembly Bill 1998, an initiative that would effectively ban stores from giving away single-use plastic bags beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

The bill, authored by Santa Monica Democrat Julia Brownley, would prohibit the distribution of plastic bags and charge customers a fee not less than .25 not less than .5 cents for recycled paper bags.

Environmental California, Heal the Bay, and Californians Against Waste are among the groups pushing for the passage of the bill. According to Environmental California's support page for the legislation, California consumes approximately 19 billion plastic bags per year. Only five percent are recycled. This has consequently created a swirling mass of plastic and artificial debris twice the size of Texas 1,000 miles off the coast.

The initiative has already been approved by the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee and passed by the Appropriations Committee. It is expected to be voted on by the state Legislature on Friday.

Click here to view the latest version of the bill.

LA Weekly