California’s plastic bag ban didn’t work. Lawmakers seek more restrictions

California lawmakers are proposing a total ban on plastic shopping bags, getting rid of the exemptions in the current ban.

A decade ago California lawmakers banned plastic bags, but allowed thicker reusable ones that could be recycled to remain. 

Now, lawmakers say that the ban led to an increase in plastic bag waste throughout the state and are now looking to ban all plastic bags. 


The big picture: Sen. Ben Allen (D–Santa Monica), Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D–Encinitas) and Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D–Orinda) have introduced two bills to ban all plastic shopping bags by 2026. 

  • The bills would exempt bags used to hold uncooked food and other items to avoid contamination or for public health purposes. 
  • It would also change the definition of “recycled paper bag” to require them to be made from 100 percent post consumer recycled materials. 
  • Bags sold by grocery stores would not be allowed to be made from plastic film materials. 

By the numbers: Blakespear said at a press conference Thursday that plastic bags are used for about 12 minutes on average. 

  • In 2004, Californians averaged eight pounds per person of plastic bag waste. . 
  • By 2021, Californians were averaging 11 pounds of plastic bag waste per person. 

What they’re saying: “It shows that the plastic bag ban that we passed in this state in 2014 did not reduce the overall use of plastic. It actually resulted in a substantial increase in plastic,” Blakespear said. “We are literally choking our planet with plastic waste.”

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