With California’s proposed statewide ban on plastic bags swept aside as collateral damage of the state’s broken political system, American Samoa emerged as the first U.S. state or territory to ban plastic bags at all retail stores. The landmark bill was signed into law last week and will take effect on February 23rd of 2011.

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Plastic, which takes up to 1,000 years to decompose, is particularly harmful in marine environments, where it gathers into huge trash islands and harms animals that mistake it for food. American Samoa consists entirely of islands, and California has a long and celebrated coastline. But the similarities stop there: The territory’s land mass is about the size of Washington, D.C., whereas California is the third largest state in the union and the world’s seventh largest economy. Several California cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have already banned plastic bags.

Even so, perhaps the California bill‘s sponsor, Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), can take a lesson from Territorial Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai, who sponsored the Samoan bill: He fought for it for four years before meeting with success last week.

Via Huffington Post