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California introduces another bill to ban plastic grocery bags for good

California lawmakers pushing new bill to ban plastic bags in grocery stores
California lawmakers pushing new bill to ban plastic bags in grocery stores 02:33

SACRAMENTO — You might be thinking, 'Didn't we already do the whole banning plastic bags thing?' The answer is yes but with a loophole.

In 2014, the California Legislature voted to ban plastic bags and it was affirmed in 2016 by voters. Now let's talk about that loophole.

"Ten years ago, California passed a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags that included a definition of a reusable grocery bag that can be provided at grocery stores for a small fee," said Jenn Engstrom, the state director of CALPIRG, a citizen-funded public interest research group.

Regular ten-cent grocery bags as we know them today are meant to be reused up to 125 times, but hardly anyone reuses them. Their thicker material adds more weight to the landfill.

Now, a new bill was introduced to the legislature to close that loophole by outright banning plastic grocery bags altogether across California.

"This time, we are getting rid of those thick plastic bags at grocery stores. You will no longer be getting plastic bags when you shop for groceries. You will, instead, have an option between paper bags or reusable tote bags," said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Hahan, who co-introduced the bill.

The average Californian discarded eight pounds per year of plastic bags before the newer, thicker bags. Now, that number has increased to nearly 12 pounds per year. So, while we use fewer bags, we have piled on more weight. One step forward, two steps back.

"It's not a renewable resource. It's just more landfill. I'd like to see us go to plastic bottles, too," said West Sacramento resident Rosetta Marx.

The ban would only impact grocery stores.

"We found that well-designed plastic bag bans can reduce plastic bags an average of 300 per person per year," Engstrom said.

"I hate having plastic bags piling up in my house. What else do you do with them?" Marx asked.

If passed, the law would go into effect in 2026.

"California has and always will continue to lead as it relates to the environment and fighting climate change," Bauer-Kahan said. "And this is a step in the right direction to reducing plastics and where we reuse more."

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