CA Votes to Ban Reusable Plastic Bags Despite First Plastic Bag Ban Being Wildly Unsuccessful

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Jun 11, 2024

Lawmakers have been trying to do everything they can to reduce the effects of pollution on the planet, which included a ban on single-use plastic bags. However, this hasn’t had the desired effect California lawmakers thought it would. 

As Californians have been using reusable plastic bags as single-use ones, California lawmakers have now decided that there should also be a ban on reusable plastic bags and have given stores alternatives to offer customers instead.

Recycling Plastic Doesn’t Work

For decades, people across the U.S. have been told that recycling plastics is better for the environment than putting them in the trash or — even worse — leaving them out on the streets.

A pile of plastic water bottles with the labels still on.

Source: Tanvi Sharma/Unsplash

A report that looked into recycling plastics discovered that recycling this material doesn’t actually work. It also discovered that the plastics industry knew this all along and has been feeding lies to the public.


The Plastic Bag Ban Had a Loophole

When the first plastic bag ban was implemented, its intention was to ban all plastic bags. However, stores found a loophole in this new law, so they began giving their customers reusable plastic bags instead.

A white plastic bag with red writing that says “Thank you.”

Source: Christopher Vega/Unsplash

This has caused many issues as customers haven’t seemed to understand that reusable plastic bags aren’t single-use ones and can be used more than once. As a result, California lawmakers have been trying to close this loophole. 

The main purpose of the original plastic bag ban was to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags. However, a loophole within the ban enabled stores to use other types of plastic bags.

A black and white photo of plastic bags filled with items piled on one another.

Source: Possessed Photography/Unsplash

This included plastic bags with a thicker film coating that could be used more than 125 times and could carry up to 22 pounds while traveling a distance of 175 feet. 

California’s Plastic Bag Waste Has Increased

Lawmakers had hoped that since the initial plastic bag ban in 2014, this would help eliminate a large proportion of plastic bag waste. As far as they were concerned, as long as the reusable plastic bags met certain recyclability standards, they were allowed.

Plastic bags with rubbish piled up next to a black bin on a beach.

Source: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

However, this hasn’t happened. Since the first ban came into effect, California’s plastic waste problem has increased. It went from 157,385 tons of plastic bags in 2014 to 231,072 by 2022 — a 47% increase.

What the Plastic Bag Legislation Says

Two bills, SB 1053 and AB 2236, are being introduced into legislation. They aim to strengthen the current laws regarding plastic bags and close any loopholes in previous legislation.

A black and white photo of a plastic bag attached to a wire fence.

Source: Morgan Vander Hart/Unsplash

It stops stores from offering customers plastic film bags. These were allowed in the initial ban; however, it has since been discovered that they are difficult to recycle, hence the new ban. 


Other Reusable Bags Are Allowed

While reusable plastic bags have now been banned, stores are still allowed to offer customers other types of reusable bags instead.

Reusable bags hanging up on a wall. Each bag is made of fabric and has different patterns.

Source: Guido Coppa/Unsplash

These include bags made from cloth, woven textiles or other washable materials that can carry at least 22 pounds and be used at least 300 times. Paper bags can also be used, as long as they contain at least 50% recycled paper and are sold for 10 cents per bag. 


The Plastic Bag Ban Has Passed through the Senate

The proposed plastic bag ban has passed through the Senate. SB 1053 passed with a 30-7 vote and AB 2236 passed through the Assembly with a 51-7 vote. Both votes were in favor of the ban.

A black and white photo of a plastic bag.

Source: Teslariu Mihai/Unsplash

However, there is still a little way to go before these two new bills become law. Both bills must be approved by the other legislative house and then signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. 


Plastics Are in the Clouds

Recent research has discovered that the plastic pollution problem worldwide has become so bad that there are now pieces of plastic in the clouds. These clouds were discovered floating across Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama in Japan.

Pink clouds in the sky. The sky is blue.

Source: Billy Huynh/Unsplash

While this may initially sound like a problem just for Japan, it isn’t. Plastic in the clouds could cause catastrophic problems for the rest of the world in terms of the climate, plants and water.


Why Plastic Needs to Be Banned

There are several reasons why plastic needs to be banned, as the harm it poses to the environment isn’t just from being left on the side of the road where wildlife could get caught up in them.

Plastics in the sea next to a school of black and yellow fish.

Source: Naja Bertolt Jensen/Unsplash

Most plastics are made of fossil fuels, so their production releases toxins into the air and water. Plastic has even been found inside humans


The Fight Against Plastics and Big Oil

With plastics and big oil companies linked, plastics have now been included in California’s efforts to create a more sustainable future.

A pile of plastic bottles.

Source: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

It is believed that by 2050, plastic pollution will have exceeded 20% of global oil production. The point of these two new bills is to try and eliminate plastic pollution and to prevent the oil industry from destroying the planet.


The Plastic Bag Ban Won’t Happen Until 2026

While the plastic bag ban might be a welcome sign to many, should it go through the process of being put into law, it won’t actually come into effect until 2026.

A black and white photo of a plastic bag in a doorway.

Source: Juan Pablo Serrano/Pexels

The current date it is set to take place is January 1, 2026. This will also mark a significant move in California’s environmental efforts and show the state’s continued commitment to tackling plastic pollution and becoming more sustainable.