After single-use plastic bag ban backfired, Calif. lawmakers advance ban on reusable plastic

Californians could soon be without all plastic bags at the checkout line.

The effort to ban reusable plastic bags in California picked up steam in the Legislature this week. 

Senate Bill 1053, authored by Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D–Encinitas) and Sen. Benjamin Allen (D–Santa Monica) passed through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Wednesday. 


The backstory: A decade ago California banned single-use plastic bans with the intent of reducing plastic waste. 

  • But lawmakers found that there has been an increase in plastic bag waste over the last 10 years despite the ban, leading to SB 1053. 
  • Blakespear said in February that in 2004 Californians averaged eight pounds per person of plastic bag waste, a number that jumped to 11 pounds per person by 2021. 

The big picture: SB 1053 will ban all plastic shopping bags by 2026, leaving an exemption for bags used to hold uncooked food and other items to avoid contamination for public health purposes. 

  • The bill would also change the definition of “recycled paper bag” to require them to be made from 100 percent post consumer recycled materials. 
  • Any bags sold by grocery stores would not be allowed to be made from plastic film materials. 
  • The bill passed by a 5-2 vote on Wednesday along party lines. 

What we’re watching: SB 1053 now heads to the Appropriations Committee. 

What they’re saying: “Plastic waste is destroying our environment and jeopardizing our planet,” Blakespear said. “A plastic bag has an average lifespan of 12 minutes and then it is discarded, afflicting our environment with toxic microplastics that impact our oceans and landfills for up to 1,000 years. SB 1053 will dramatically cut California’s plastic bag pollution.”

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