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California recycling law lacks oversight

SACRAMENTO — Seeking to reduce the number of plastic shopping bags cluttering California's beaches and landfills, the state Legislature in 2006 passed a law requiring grocery stores and other large retailers to give consumers an easy way of returning used bags.

Stores handing out plastic bags to customers were directed to collect used bags for recycling and make reusable bags available for purchase.

Seven years later, recycling bins continue to sit outside California stores. But the agency in charge of the recycling program can't say how many bags are being recycled or whether the program has affected the demand, factors that could help state lawmakers in weighing proposals to ban the product.

Stores are required to submit annual reports detailing how many bags were bought by the store, how many were returned by consumers and which recyclers processed them.

A review by The Associated Press found data has not been analyzed since 2009, two years after the law took effect. Then, 3 percent of California's plastic bags were being recycled, a 1 percentage point increase.


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