California Becomes First State to Ban Plastic Bags


The law will start to take effect in July 2015.


SACRAMENTO – California became the first state in the nation to ban plastic grocery bags Tuesday when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that will prohibit large stores from using the sacks beginning in July.

“This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The legislation authored by Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, and Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, brings the state in line with ordinances that have been enacted by 120 local governments in California, including the city and county of Los Angeles and many municipalities in the Bay Area. ( Click here to see a list of cities and counties that already had ordinances on the books.)

Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, helped co-author SB 270, and said the bill will help our environment.

“Once again, California is leading the nation in environmental protection,” said Levine. “This bill will protect our streams, waterways, and wildlife. I thank Governor Brown, Senate President pro Tempore Elect De León, and Senators Padilla and Lara for their leadership on this historic legislation.”

Here’s a timeline on what this new law means:

Beginning July 1, 2015, the new law prohibits grocery stores and pharmacies from distributing single-use plastic bags.
In July 2016, the rules will extend to convenience and liquor stores.
The law also makes $2 million in loans available to plastic-bag businesses to help them transition to the manufacture of reusable bags during this time.

Stores will still be allowed to use paper bags, as long as they are made of recycled material, according to Levine’s office. However, they can charge up to 10 cents per bag.

The law applies to stores that sell groceries and pharmacies— think Safeway, Target, Walmart, Rite Aid— but not stores that don’t sell those items, like Macy’s.

“The new law will greatly reduce the flow of billions of single-use plastic bags that litter our communities and harm our environment each year,” Padilla said. “Moving from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags is common sense. Governor Brown’s signature reflects our commitment to protect the environment and reduce government costs.”

Plastic bag manufacturers have blasted efforts to ban the product, saying it would lead to massive job losses in the industry. Padilla said the inclusion of loan funds for businesses to convert to the manufacture of reusable bags would help address that concern.