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New California Democrat bill would ban all plastic bags at grocery stores


California would ban all plastic shopping bags in 2026 under a new bill announced Thursday in the state Legislature.

California already bans thin plastic shopping bags at grocery stores and other shops, but shoppers at checkout can purchase bags made with a thicker plastic that purportedly makes them reusable and recyclable.

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Democratic state Sen. Catherine Blakespear said people are not reusing or recycling those bags. She points to a state study that found the amount of plastic shopping bags trashed per person grew from 8 pounds per year in 2004 to 11 pounds per year in 2021.

“It shows that the plastic bag ban that we passed in this state in 2014 did not reduce the overall use of plastic. It actually resulted in a substantial increase in plastic,” Blakespear, a Democrat from Encinitas, said Thursday. “We are literally choking our planet with plastic waste.”

Catherine Blakespear

California Democratic state Senator Catherine Blakespear gestures toward a person covered in plastic bags at a news conference in Sacramento, California, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP/Adam Beam)

Twelve states, including California, already have some type of statewide plastic bag ban in place, according to the environmental advocacy group Environment America Research & Policy Center. Hundreds of cities across 28 states also have their own plastic bag bans in place.

While California’s bag ban would apply statewide, it would only end up impacting about half the state’s population, according to Mark Murray, lead advocate for the environmental advocacy group Californians Against Waste. That’s because most of the state’s major cities already ban these types of thicker plastic bags. But a state law passed in 2014 and approved by voters in a 2016 referendum bans cities from passing new laws restricting plastic bag use.

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If the Legislature passes this bill, it would be up to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to decide whether to sign it into law. As San Francisco’s mayor in 2007, Newsom signed the nation’s first plastic bag ban.


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