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California Lawmakers Approve Ban of Reusable Plastic Bags

Bills intended to encourage use of paper and more sustainable grocery sacks
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Plastic grocery bags
Declaring that single use plastic bag bans didn't go far enough, California lawmakers are now prohibiting reusable plastic bags offered by grocers and c-stores.

Two bills banning reusable plastic grocery bags have been passed by legislators in California. Proposed earlier this year in each house, the bills prohibit retailers from offering not only single use plastic bags but plastic bags that have been considered reusable.

The Senate bill (SB-1053), amended this spring, would require reusable grocery bags offered by grocers to meet certain standards, including construction from non-plastic materials like cloth or washable textiles. Additionally, the legislation redefines “recycled paper bag” as made from a minimum of 50% post-consumer recycled materials. 

RELATED: Recyclable Grocery Boxes: An Alternative to Plastic Shopping Bags

Meanwhile, the bill put forth and approved by the California Assembly (AB-2236) limits the use of single-use carryout bags with exceptions such as bags used for unwrapped food or bags that protect items from contamination by other purchased items. The bill defines “store” as a retail establishment with gross annual sales over $2 million and with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space. 

The bills will be shared and reconciled between the houses, with final proposed legislation sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature. If and when formally signed, the laws would take effect on Jan. 1, 2026.

Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a member of the California Assembly who co-authored the bill in that chamber, released a statement noting that the law takes previous plastic bans a step further. “AB- 2236 substantiates California's environmental agenda by fortifying regulations on the use of plastic bags. This legislation ensures a quick transition to sustainable alternatives like paper and reusable bags,” she said. 

State Sen. Catherine Blakespear, who co-authored the bill in that legislative body, agreed. In her statement, she declared, “SB-1053 closes the loophole to the original ban on film plastic bags enacted 10 years ago that has allowed stores to sell customers thicker plastic bags that meet certain recyclability standards. However, the truth is almost none of those bags are recycled and they end up in landfills, polluting the environment.”

When the bills were first introduced in February, the California Grocers Association (CGA) announced its support. “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 Daniel Conway VP of government relations for CGA, at the time. “We know that even the best policies may 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 support the communities grocers serve and our environment.”

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