California's Statewide Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban

Under Senate Bill 270, also known as it's referendum ballot measure, Prop 67,  prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags at grocery, drug, and convenience stores and requires that reusable bags have a minimum 10 cent fee. 

SB 270 was signed into law in 2014, but soon afterwards was challenged by out of state plastic bag manufacturers who intended to repeal the law by running a deceptive campaign after gathering enough signatures to qualify the measure for a referendum vote in 2016. The law was meant to be phased in over time, but the referendum vote effectively put the law's implementation on hold until November 9th, 2016. Ultimately, CAW and those who partnered with us to uphold the bag ban in the Yes on 67 campaign prevailed. California voters approved the referendum vote of SB 270 by a 53.27% affirmative vote, proving that our environmental values can't be bought out by out of state special interest groups.

Now, the single-use bag ban is fully implemented statewide and communities that previously didn't have a plastic bag ordinance are seeing the benefits that the statewide single-use plastic bag ban has brought.

Read more about life without single-use plastic bags.

Impact of the Statewide Single-Use Grocery Bag Ban

Store and Reusable Bag Manufacturer Compliance

The Problem with Plastic Bags

Lightweight, single-use plastic bags are a unique threat to the environment.  Unlike other waste, these bags can travel long distances overland, pushed by the wind like a tumbleweed. They are blown by the wind out of trash cans, garbage trucks and landfills, and often do not stop until they reach a stream, river or the ocean.

Once in our waterways, they do not biodegrade, but instead break apart into smaller pieces and soak up toxins. Once they are consumed by fish, turtles and whales that mistake them for food, those toxins make their way up the food chain. The Ocean Conservancy recently deemed plastic bags as the #2 deadliest threat to sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals.

Previous to California's single-use plastic bag ban, the state used between 13 and 20 billion of these bags every year, but only 3% were recycled. This is because they were not collected in curbside recycling, and have an low recycling value.  

Cities, counties, and recyclers used to spend exorbitant amounts of time and money removing plastic bags from their recyclables stream, where bags jammed machinery and added to the manual labor costs of recycling. San Jose had previously estimated an annual loss of $1 million each year due to plastic bag related repairs in their facilities. In early 2013, it was reported that a recycling facility in Sacramento shut down six times a day to remove bags from their machines. Ultimately, these bags are simply too expensive to recycle.

NRDC estimated that every year previous to the statewide single-use plastic bag ban, California cities spent about $11 per resident to keep litter from ending up in our oceans as marine pollution. For California, the overall cost to protect our waters from litter was roughly $428 million each year--with between 8% to 25% attributable to plastic bags alone according to clean up data from San Jose and Los Angeles CountyBased on this information, an estimated 34 million to 107 million dollars was spent each year prior to the statewide single use plastic bag ban to manage plastic bag litter in the state. Additionally, Southern California cities estimated to have spent in excess of $1.7 billion in meeting Total Maximum Daily Loads for trashed in impaired waterways.

Numerous recent international, national, state and local reports have called for the banning or drastic reduction of plastic bags due to their environmental damage. Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environmental Program, recently said "there is simply zero justification for manufacturing [plastic bags] any more, anywhere."

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