Are Your Reusable Bags Compliant with the California Bag Ban?

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California voters affirmed a state law banning single-use plastic grocery bags. Californians Against Waste assisted the legislature in developing Senate Bill 270, which prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic grocery bags and requires that all paper and reusable bags meet specific requirements.  

The law creates standards that reusable bags distributed or sold in California must meet, including a narrow exception for reusable plastic bag producers that demonstrate that their plastic bags meet specified reusability, recycling, and recycled content standards. 

The information on this page is designed to help retail stores, reusable bag producers, and distributors comply with California law.


For Stores:

Stores that are covered under SB 270 are not permitted to provide single-use carryout bags to a customer at the point of sale, and shall only sell, for a minimum of 10 cents, reusable grocery bags or recycled paper bags that meet all requirements of the law. Stores must provide a reusable grocery bag or recycled paper bag free of charge to customers using a payment card or voucher issued by the California Special Supplement Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.

Stores covered under SB 270:

  • Full-line, self-service retail stores with gross annual sales of $2 million or more that sell dry groceries, canned goods, or nonfood items, and some perishable items.
  • Stores with at least 10,000 sq feet of retail space that generate sales or use tax and have a pharmacy.
  • Convenience food stores, foodmarts, or other entities engages in the retail sale of a limited line of goods (bread, milk, soda, snack foods, etc.) and that hold a Type 20 or 21 liquor license.
  • Convenience food stores, foodmarts, or other entities engaged in the retail sale of goods intended to be consumed offsite and hold a Type 20 or 21 liquor license.

For Reusable Bag Producers/ Distributors:

Reusable Bag Requirements

  • Handle designed for 125 uses.
  • 15 liter capacity.
  • Made from a material that can be cleaned.
  • Does not contain lead, cadmium, or any other toxic material.
  • Compliant with Federal Regulations on any recycling claims.
  • Printed text, which is required to be on the bag or on a tag not intended to be removed, includes:
    • Name of manufacturer.
    • Country where manufactured.
    • Statement that the bag is reusable for 125 uses.
    • Instructions for recycling.

Additional Requirements for Reusable Plastic Bags

  • Contain a minimum of 20% postconsumer recycled material.
    • After January 1, 2020 contain a minimum of 40% postconsumer recycled material.
  • Must be accepted for recycling at stores subject to the at-store recycling program.
  • Be capable of carrying 22 lbs over a distance of 175 feet for a minimum of 125 uses.
  • Thickness of at least 2.25 mils.
  • In addition to information required to be printed on the bag:
    • Statement that the bag is made from postconsumer recycled material and stating the PCR percentage.
  • If the bag is certified compostable, it is not required to meet minimum recycled content requirements.

Paper Bag Requirements

  • Contain a minimum of 40% postconsumer recycled materials.
    • For 8 lb or smaller paper bags- a minimum of 20% postconsumer recycled material.
  • Must be accepted for recycling in curbside programs in a majority of households with access to curbside recycling in the state.
  • Printed text on the bag, which includes:
    • Name of manufacturer.
    • Country where manufactured.
    • Minimum percentage of postconsumer recycled content.

Natural or Synthetic Fabric Reusable Bag Requirements

  • Must be sewn.
  • Be capable of carrying 22 lbs over a distance of 175 feet for a minimum of 125 uses.
  • Minimum fabric weight of 80 grams per sq meter.

Compostable Bag Requirements

Resources for Required Third-party Certification

Pursuant to Section 42281.5 of the California Public Resources Code, producers of reusable grocery bags made from plastic film are prohibited from selling or distributing bags in this state until and unless they provide a third-party certified demonstration of compliance with the reusable bag provisions of Senate Bill 270. This certified proof of compliance must be submitted to CalRecycle through the Reusable Grocery Bag Reporting System (RGBRS) on a biennial basis. 

Recommended Tests: Reusable Bags

Chemical

  • Testing conducted through an accredited laboratory.

Recommended Tests: Additional Requirements for Plastic Film Reusable Bags

Postconsumer Recycled Content Certification

Thickness

Accredited ISO/IEC 17025 Labs Confirmed to Test for
Reusable Bag Lifespan

Accredited ISO/ IEC 17025 Labs Confirmed to Test for
Chemicals in Products

 

*Capable of performing both Lifespan and Chemical testing of reusable bag