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Plastic Bags Could Get the Sack in California

In much of California, you can't get free plastic bags for your groceries, and if the governor signs a new bill, that'll be true across the state.

In many parts of environmentally conscious California, you can't get free plastic bags to carry your groceries, and if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill passed last week, that'll be true across the state.

Under the legislation, shoppers who forget to bring their own bags would have to pay at least 10 cents at the grocery store for paper or reusable bags starting next summer — or they'll have to tote their purchases home by hand.

At a grocery store in Burbank, near Hollywood, Toni Scurria told NBC News she thought the idea was "a bunch of baloney," saying, "We have too many rules and regulations in California."

But another shopper, Gina Ruffino, said using your own resuable bags wasn't a big deal — one-time-use disposable bags are "a big waste, and people don't recycle them, necessarily," she said.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery estimates that only 1 percent to 3 percent of the billions of shopping bags used in California are recycled each year.

"The plastic bags are littering our streets and all too often end up in our ocean choking marine life," said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate for Environment California, a nonprofit activist group. "So banning single-use plastic bags is a huge step forward for the environment."

Bag manufacturers, however, say that's not the point. "This bill has never been about the environment," the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a Washington, D.C., trade group, said in a statement to NBC News. To the industry, the regulations are "a dirty deal between California grocers and union bosses to scam consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees."

The disagreements had stalled legislation for years. The new bill finally passed with a provision included to provide $2 million in loans for bag manufacturers to reconfigure their equipment and training to make reusable bags.

Brown has until the end of September to decide whether to sign the bill into law. Kinman said that already, however, the discussion about the regulation is "a shift in the conversation away from producing products that we're only using for a manner of minutes."

— Hallie Jackson