California Lawmakers Pass Ban On Plastic Shopping Bags

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The California State Assembly and State Senate passed two bills banning plastic “reusable” and recyclable shopping bags. The bills also revised providing paper bags made out of 40% recycled material to 100% recycled material. 

Inside the ban


Senate Bill 1053 and Assembly Bill 2236 are extensions of the 2014 ban on single-use plastic bags 2014. the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) concluded that allowing multi-use bags did not provide the desired results. The state’s plastic waste increased, and Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan commented that fighting against plastic would become a fight against big oil.

The bills to go into effect in 2026


The two bills are set to go into effect on January 1, 2026, 10 years after the single-use plastic bags were officially banned. The 2014 ban, which went into effect in 2016, allowed sellers and retailers to use plastic bags with a slightly thicker film coating because they were considered reusable. 

The ban’s flaw

Illustration. Image credit: Shutterstock

The flaw of the initial ban was discussed in 2014. The lawmakers wondered whether shoppers would treat these bags as reusable or if they would end up like other single-use plastic items. Unfortunately, the data proved their suspicions justified. 

The data


CALPRIG, or the California Public Interest Research Group, found that in 2021, California generated  231,000 tons of plastic bag waste, an all-time high for the Golden State. Jenn Engstrom, the state director of CALPRIG, commented that the current law allows retailers to use thin bags instead of reusable ones at checkouts.

Headed to the Governor’s desk

Photo by Sheilaf2002 / Depositphotos

Both 2024 bills are expected to be signed by Governor Newsom by September 30. Engstrom thanked the state legislature for banning plastic bags for good and argued that despite the initial 2014 bill, many Californians were not reusing or recycling plastic bags.

State Senators agreed 

Illustration. Image credit: Depositphotos

Senator Catherine Blakespear, who penned SB 1053, also issued a statement explaining that the original plastic bag ban has been counterintuitive. Blakespear added that the state must do its part to eliminate waste and save the environment. The bills were also backed by environmental groups. 

Plastic waste 


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that decomposing plastic waste takes 100 to 1,000 years or even more. The length of decomposition is affected by environmental conditions. However, not everyone was happy about the new bills. 

Bans are counterproductive?


The American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance argued that bans are counterproductive, explaining that the alternatives will not do enough for the environment. Instead of what they called counterproductive policies, the organization promotes the reuse or recycling of plastic carryout bags. 

Battle against plastic pollution 


Bauer-Kahan noted that AB 2236 is a cry against plastic pollution, and firmer regulations and eco-friendly alternatives could help people regain their environment. Laura Deehan, state director for Environment California, agreed and said that the organization is optimistic regarding the new bills.

Greener future


Deehan asserted that anything we use for a few minutes should not become a century-long environmental burden. She added that new bills have the power not only to reduce plastic waste but to help protect wildlife and build a cleaner, greener, healthier future. 

Paper bags to the rescue


The bills also proposed revising the requirement for stores to provide paper bags made out of 40% recycled material to 100% recycled material. If signed into law, stores can still offer customers paper bags or bags made of at least 50% post-consumer recycled materials for checkout for a 10-cent fee.

New Jersey already has similar laws


New Jersey has banned all plastic bags at stores and restaurants, and despite some rumors, it did not backfire. The New Jersey Plastics Advisory Council estimates the law eliminated 5.51 billion plastic bags annually. 

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Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.