California Legislature First State to Ban Disposable Plastic Bags

Tuesday, September 02, 2014
(photo: David McNew, Getty Images)

Lawmakers in California have positioned their state to become the first in the nation to ban stores from giving customers disposable plastic grocery bags.


Legislation now awaiting approval from Governor Jerry Brown (D) would prohibit the use of single-use disposable plastic bags in grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores and other businesses. If approved by Brown, SB 270 would go into effect next July for grocers and pharmacies. Convenience and liquor stores would have until July 1, 2016, to comply with the law, which allows stores to sell paper bags and reusable plastic bags. The governor’s office has said Brown does not yet have a position on the bill.


Support for banning the plastic bags has been growing in the state, with San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities adopting their own local ordinances.


Environmentalists have wanted the bags gone, saying they only add to pollution problems, particularly in the ocean. Advocacy group Californians Against Waste estimates the state goes through 10 billion of the bags each year.


When supporters in the state legislature agreed to add to the bill a provision allocating $2 million to help plastic bag makers retool their operations to manufacture reusable bags, this tipped the balance and the California Grocers Association (CGA) threw its support behind the bill. “SB 270 will foster innovation, create homegrown jobs, safeguard businesses and protect California’s natural resources,” CGA President Ron Fong said in a statement.


Supporters also had to get the incoming leader of the state Senate, Democrat Kevin de León of Los Angeles on board because his district includes Command Packaging, which used to make disposable bags. “The company has since retooled some of its operations to create recycled plastic bags out of agricultural film used for wrapping crops,” The Wall Street Journal reported, clearing the way for de León to support the bill.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

California Legislature Passes Ban on Disposable Plastic Bags (by Alejandro Lazo, Wall Street Journal)

California Plastic Bag Ban Passes Assembly; Senate Approval Expected (by Jessica Calefati and Josh Richman, San Jose Mercury News)

California Plastic Bag Ban Would Be First of Its Kind in the Nation (by Aaron Mendelson, Reuters)

Critics Queasy over Report that Plastic Bag Ban Makes People Sick (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Washington, D.C. Becomes First U.S. City to Impose Fees on Disposable Grocery Bags (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Daniel Mitchell 9 years ago
This is a ripoff. Grocery store bags are biodegradable now and have been for several years. Charging us $0.10 per bag is a ripoff of the consumer. What about the big plastic bags you get at Macys or Gimbals or target. Those bags are not biodegradable, but they are not banned. This cloth bags they want you to buy, who the heck is going to carry 10 to 15 of them into the store when they do their shopping? And what happens when you inventively get that chicken or pork chop package that leaks, You have the chance of spreading pathogens if you do not wash the bag before you use it again. I think they need to reconsider this law. It sounds good, but the only people who will make out on it are the grocers who sell you a paper bag at 10 cents.

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