California voters were leaning toward upholding a statewide ban on single-use plastic carryout bags, according to partial returns Tuesday.
Proposition 67 was placed on the ballot by plastic bag industry supporters to try to overturn a ban approved by the Legislature two years ago.
A coalition of environmental groups, grocers and others led the campaign to uphold the statewide ban.
"Based on the counties that have reported as well as the counties that are yet to report, we're feeling optimistic that the current lead for Proposition 67 is going to increase," said Mark Murray, spokesman for the Yes on 67 Campaign.
A second measure, Proposition 65, proposed to direct any proceeds from a 10-cent charge for alternate bags to an environmental fund. It trailed in early returns.
Environmental groups and other critics say it 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 SB270, a statewide ban that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance led the campaign to repeal SB270.
Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the Yes on 67 campaign, said plastic bags kill marine life, jam recycling equipment and cause litter.
But the American Progressive Bag Alliance claimed the ban would kill thousands of jobs in California and cost consumers hundreds of dollars annually in bag fees. Plastic companies and bag manufacturers have spent more than $6 million to place the two measures on the ballot and campaign for them.
Alliance spokesman Jon Berrier said during the campaign that plastic retail bags represent less than half a percent of the waste stream.
"Science has really left the building when it comes to making policy around this issue," he said.
The Surfrider Foundation opposed the charge on plastic bags, contending it was unclear what the environmental fund would actually do or how it would be structured within the current conservation agencies in the state.