California Just Passed Historic Legislation to Ban Plastic Bags

October 1st 2014

Lindsay Haskell

California Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill that bans plastic bag use at many retailers including grocery stores, pharmacies and liquor stores. This law, which will take effect on July 1, 2015, is the nation's first state-level ban on plastic bags. "This bill is a step in the right direction," Brown said in a statement, "It reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks, and even the vast ocean itself.

So far, only cities have managed to pass plastic bag-related legislation, with Los Angeles being the largest city to join the ranks of the 132 U.S. cities and counties banning plastic bags back in January. While some worry that a state-wide plastic bag ban will negatively affect jobs (with roughly 2,000 California jobs dedicated to plastic bag manufacturing) these dissidents fail to note manufacturers' ability to adapt to the marketplace. One company who used to produce disposable plastic bags, Command Packaging, is already switching over to reusable plastic bags made from agricultural film. In addition, the bill includes providing $2 million in loans to local plastic bag manufacturers so that they can afford to retool their products.


It is about time a state acknowledged the detrimental effects disposable plastic bag use has on the environment. Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide, with the average family using 60 bags for only 4 trips to the grocery store. These large numbers are troubling, considering that plastic bags account for large portion of U.S. landfills and are one of the top items littering the land and ocean, which endangers marine life. In addition, plastic bags are manufactured using non-renewable resources like crude oil. While it's true that plastic bags are recyclable, the recycling rates for plastic films is incredibly low, at a mere 6.1% in 2009.

If all goes well, hopefully this change will spark more state-wide plastic bag bans across the country. "We're the first [state] to ban these bags, Brown stated, but "we won't be the last."