California lawmakers vote to ban 'reusable' plastic bags from grocery stores

California lawmakers have voted to do away with reusable plastic bags after the elimination of single-use plastic bags failed to reduce plastic pollution.

"California’s original ban on plastic bags hasn’t worked out as planned, and sadly, the state’s plastic bag waste has increased dramatically since it went into effect," said Sen. Catherine Blakespear, the bill’s author, in a statement. "California must do its part to eliminate this scourge that is contaminating our environment."

On Tuesday, California lawmakers in the State Senate and the State Assembly voted to approve two identical bills which would restrict grocery stores and retailers from offering thicker, "reusable" bags made out of plastic film to customers.

target aisle grocery bag
California lawmakers voted to approve two identical bills which would restrict grocery stores from offering thicker, "reusable" bags made out of plastic film to customers.

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SB 1053 and AB 2236 would permit grocery stores to sell other types of reusable bags made of cloth, woven textile or other washable textile that can carry at least 22 pounds for at least 300 uses. It also allows for paper bags with at least 50% recycled paper content to be sold for at least 10 cents apiece to customers.

California implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2016, but the law included an exception that allowed retailers to use plastic bags with a slightly thicker film coating, able to have more than 125 uses and carry a weight of up to 22 pounds over a distance of 175 feet.

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However, the move to reduce plastic pollution failed, as customers treated the thicker "reusable" plastic bags as disposable. California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) reported a roughly 47% jump in plastic bag waste tonnage since 2014, despite the ban on single-use shopping bags.

A man carrying goods in plastic bags crosses a street where a sign promoting a plastic bag-free shopping experience is displayed outside a department store. (Photo by ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images)
CalRecycle has observed a roughly 47% jump in plastic bag waste tonnage since 2014, despite the ban on single-use shopping bags.

"California’s current bag ban law, which allows businesses to replace thin plastic bags with supposedly reusable ones at checkout, clearly is not working," Jenn Engstrom, state director of CALPIRG, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Plastic companies mass-producing thicker bags circumvent the law’s intent," she continued. "Then, inevitably, discarded bags pollute our communities and environment. We’re thankful the state legislature is taking action to finally ban plastic grocery bags once and for all."

The bills will be reconciled between the houses and then sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk. If signed, the reusable plastic bag ban would go into effect Jan. 1, 2026.


Original article source: California lawmakers vote to ban 'reusable' plastic bags from grocery stores