Malibu, the first city in the nation to adopt and implement a comprehensive ban on the distribution of plastic grocery bags, declared its support Monday for AB 1998, the measure that would make California the first state in the nation to bar stores from handing out single-use plastic bags for customers to carry out their purchases.

The Malibu City Council voted unanimously Monday night to endorse the bill by Assemblymember Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, which seeks to reduce waste and protect marine wildlife by shifting consumers to reusable bags. Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, AB 1998 would require shoppers to bring their own bags or purchase paper bags made of recyclable materials at a price of 5 cents for each bag.

“In keeping with its commitment to environmental protection, Malibu led the way in banning the distribution of pollution-causing plastic bags two years ago,” said Mayor Jefferson Wagner. “The city’s ordinance has significantly reduced litter and the threat to marine wildlife from plastic bags that end up in the ocean where they’re mistaken for food and consumed. We applaud Assemblymember Brownley for seeking to expand this ban statewide, and we are proud to support her efforts to ensure AB 1998 is enacted.”

The Malibu City Council unanimously adopted its plastic bag ban, Ordinance 323, on May 27, 2008.   The comprehensive ordinance prohibits the distribution of plastic shopping bags and compostable plastic bags, which also pose a threat to marine wildlife. The ordinance applies to all commercial and nonprofit retailers and vendors and any retailer or vendor selling goods at a facility owned by the City or on public property.

“In order to provide leadership on the global marine debris crisis, Malibu was the first city in California to pass a comprehensive ban on single-use plastic bags.” said Heal the Bay President Mark Gold. “Now, we applaud the City of Malibu for supporting AB 1998, the bill that will protect the marine environment, beautify our local communities and will support green reusable bag manufacturers and retailers while breaking California’s addiction to single-use bags.”

The City of Malibu ensured acceptance and successful implementation of the ban by launching an extensive education campaign for the business community and distributing free “Think Legacy” shopping bags made of recycled and recyclable materials.

The ordinance also gave businesses and nonprofit organizations time to adjust to the new requirement by providing for a two-step implementation. Grocery stores, food vendors, restaurants, pharmacies and city facilities had more than six months – until Dec. 27, 2008 – to comply. The remaining retail and commercial establishments, as well as nonprofit vendors, had more than a year to comply with a deadline of June 27, 2009.

“Every year, approximately 6 billion plastic single-use shopping bags are used in Los Angeles County alone. This is equivalent to 600 bags per person per year,” said Mayor Wagner. “These petroleum-based bags never go away. Instead, they break down into tiny pieces of toxic substance that contaminate our water and soil, entering the food chain. As Malibu has shown with the successful implementation of its ordinance, businesses and their customers will adjust and ultimately embrace reusable and recyclable bags to protect California’s environment, its water and its food supplies for future generations. We urge the Senate to adopt AB 1998.”

The Assembly approved AB 1998 on June 2 and sent it to the Senate for its consideration. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger already has issued a statement indicating his support for the measure.

San Francisco adopted a plastic bag ban before Malibu. But its ordinance applies only to chain supermarkets and pharmacies and does not apply to compostable bags. Malibu’s ordinance prohibits the distribution of plastic shopping bags from almost every possible source in the city and includes compostable bags. Malibu is the only city in Southern California with a plastic bag ban ordinance in effect, and its ordinance helps protect 21 miles of coastline, one of the longest stretches of coastline found within a California city’s limits.