Press Release

Sen. Blakespear, Sen. Allen and Asm. Bauer-Kahan Partner on Legislation to Ban Plastic Bags

SB 1053 and AB 2236 close loopholes to California’s initial ban to ensure consumers are using either reusable bags or paper bags

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Catherine Blakespear, D-Encinitas, Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda, announced on Thursday they are introducing legislation to ban the use of plastic bags by grocery stores and stores that sell food.

Joined at a Capitol press conference by a broad coalition of supporters that includes environmental groups and the California Grocers Association, legislators said it was time to expand California’s original single use plastic bags ban to combat the state’s persistent plastic pollution problem.

“If you have been paying attention – if you read the news at all in recent years – you know we are choking our planet with plastic waste,” said Sen. Catherine Blakespear, D-Encinitas. “A plastic bag has an average lifespan of 12 minutes and then it is discarded, often clogging sewage drains, contaminating our drinking water and degenerating into toxic microplastics that fester in our oceans and landfills for up to 1,000 years. It’s time to improve on California’s original plastic bags ban and do it right this time by completely eliminating plastic bags from being used at grocery stores.”

“California has a proud tradition of leading the nation on environmental policy, particularly on plastic pollution. A decade ago, we were the first state to ban the thin throw-away bags, and two years ago we passed the first comprehensive single-use packaging law,” said Sen. Allen, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. “We learned a lot in the years between those efforts, but since its conception, our bag ban policy has fallen behind those in other states. We can and must do better. Consumers are ready to put this issue to bed and move away from plastic grocery bags altogether. We are very excited to see this finally get done this year.”

"Ten years ago, California attempted to ban plastic bags to stem pollution. Yet, these insidious relics persist, choking our waterways, imperiling wildlife, and despoiling our ecosystems," said Asm. Bauer-Kahan. "AB 2236 is our battle cry against plastic pollution. With tougher rules and a push for eco-friendly alternatives, we're ready to kick plastic bags to the curb and reclaim our environment."

SB 1053 and AB 2236 build on California's environmental legacy by strengthening regulations on the use of plastic bags. This legislation stops the use of plastic film bags that are currently sold at checkout to consumers by most stores. Those type of bags were allowed in the original ban on single use plastic bags passed in 2014 because they were deemed reusable.

However, the bags are difficult to recycle – and so few are ever recycled – and they are seldom reused. Instead, they have contributed to California’s growing plastic waste. According to CalRecycle, the amount of grocery and merchandise bags disposed by Californians grew from 147,038 tons, or roughly 8 pounds per person, in 2004 to 231,072 tons, or roughly 11 pounds per person, in 2021.  

The legislation tightens standards for reusable bags and requires stores to provide 100 percent recycled paper bags or let consumers use reusable bags.

“Nearly 8 years ago California consumers took a giant step in reducing plastic pollution by voting to eliminate those flimsy single-use plastic bags,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste.Today we have an opportunity to finish the job by phasing out remaining plastic shopping bags at the grocery store.”

“Plastic bag bans work -- just not the way California does it,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director for CALPIRG. “Especially in the last few years, plastic bag companies have circumvented the law’s intent by mass producing thicker plastic bags that they claim are exempt from the law because they can technically be reused. The reality is that few people actually reuse them. These thick bags end up harming our environment and littering our communities just as much as the thinner ones. It’s time to finally ban plastic bags once and for all.”

“Work to achieve a legally-binding plastics treaty is underway and building on California’s Single-Use Carryout Bag Ban, SB270, is more important than ever," said Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Founder and Executive Director of Azul, a Latinx-led and serving ocean and coastal justice organization. "The plastics crisis requires real governmental action and we're proud to see the U.S. leadership front and center in California. Azul proudly joins these legislative leaders in advancing solutions to address the burdens of plastic pollution and environmental injustice.”

“Beginning with the passage of SB 270 in 2014, California’s grocery industry has played a leading role in driving the state towards a common sense and responsible approach to the use of plastics and packaging by consumers,” said California Grocers Association VP of Government Relations Daniel Conway. “We know that even the best policies need to be updated over time to reflect changes in our society, so today marks the continuation of the work that started with SB 270 and is an important new chapter in our efforts to be stewards of the communities we serve and the environment we enjoy.”

Elected in 2022, Sen. Blakespear represents Senate District 38, which covers northern San Diego County and part of Orange County. To learn more about the district and Sen. Blakespear, visit her Senate website.