AB 2236 (Bauer-Kahan) and SB 1053 (Blakespear) will eliminate plastic bags in grocery stores by 2026
Sacramento, CA — Today, Assemblymember Bauer Kahan, Senator Allen, and Senator Blakespear announced Assembly Bill 2236 and Senate Bill 1053, identical legislation combatting California’s persistent plastic bag pollution problem. The bills eliminate the option to receive an unwoven plastic bag at grocery stores, retail that includes grocery, and convenience stores. A broad coalition of environmental groups, as well as the California Grocers Association support the bills.
“Ten years ago, California attempted to ban plastic bags to stem pollution. Yet, these insidious relics persist, choking our waterways, imperiling wildlife, and despoiling our ecosystems,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda). “AB 2236 and SB 1053 are our battle cry against plastic pollution. With tougher rules and a push for eco-friendly alternatives, we’re ready to kick plastic bags to the curb and reclaim our environment.”
“If you have been paying attention – if you read the news at all in recent years – you know we are choking our planet with plastic waste,” said Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D-Encinitas.) “A plastic bag has an average lifespan of 12 minutes and then it is discarded, often clogging sewage drains, contaminating our drinking water and degenerating into toxic microplastics that fester in our oceans and landfills for up to 1,000 years. It’s time to improve on California’s original plastic bags ban and do it right this time by completely eliminating plastic bags from being used at grocery stores.”
“California has a proud tradition of leading the nation on environmental policy, particularly on plastic pollution. A decade ago, we were the first state to ban the thin throw-away bags, and two years ago we passed the first comprehensive single-use packaging law,” said Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee and is co-authoring both bills. “We learned a lot in the years between those efforts, but since its conception, our bag ban policy has fallen behind those in other states. We can and must do better. Consumers are ready to put this issue to bed and move away from plastic grocery bags altogether. We are very excited to see this finally get done this year.”
AB 2236 and SB 1053 substantiates California’s environmental agenda by fortifying regulations on the use of plastic bags. This legislation closes loopholes and ensuring a quick transition to sustainable alternatives like paper and reusable bags.
“Work to achieve a legally-binding plastics treaty is underway and building on California’s Single-Use Carryout Bag Ban, SB 270, is more important than ever,” said Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Founder and Executive Director of Azul, a Latinx-led and serving ocean and coastal justice organization. “The plastics crisis requires real governmental action and we’re proud to see the U.S. leadership front and center in California. Azul proudly joins these legislative leaders in advancing solutions to address the burdens of plastic pollution and environmental injustice.”
“Single-use plastic bags are among the most insidious types of pollution and one of the most common items found on our beaches and waterways. In California alone, Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers have collected over 300,000 plastic grocery bags in the last three decades. Fortunately, we have an effective remedy: single-use plastic bag bans. We’re glad to see California close the loophole in their bag ban law that has allowed for some plastic bags to continue to litter California’s beautiful beaches. We hope this serves as a model for other states to do away with single-use plastic bags once and for all,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, Associate Director, US Plastics Policy at Ocean Conservancy.
“Nearly 8 years ago California consumers took a giant step in reducing plastic pollution by voting to eliminate those flimsy single-use plastic bags, said Mark Murray, Executive Director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste. “Today we have an opportunity to finish the job by phasing out remaining plastic shopping bags at the grocery store.”
“Enough is enough. Plastic pollution damages our coasts, communities, and health. Plastic bags are one of the most common single-use plastics harming ocean wildlife, including endangered sea turtles,” said Christy Leavitt, plastics campaign director at Oceana. “SB 1053 and AB 2236 will prevent thicker plastic bags from clogging our oceans and streets and killing wildlife. California is a leader in reducing single-use plastics, and Oceana applauds Senators Blakespear and Allen and Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan for taking this important step to effectively address the plastic pollution crisis.”
“Plastic bag bans work – so it’s no wonder why the plastics industry has been figuring out ways to undermine the intent of the law,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director for CALPIRG. “Especially in the last few years, plastic bag companies have circumvented the law’s intent by mass producing thicker plastic bags that they claim are exempt from the law because they can technically be reused. The reality is that few people actually reuse them. These thick bags end up harming our environment and littering our communities just as much as the thinner ones. It’s time to finally ban plastic bags once and for all.”
“Beginning with the passage of SB 270 in 2014, California’s grocery industry has played a leading role in driving the state towards a common sense and responsible approach to the use of plastics and packaging by consumers,” said California Grocers Association VP of Government Relations, Daniel Conway. “We know that even the best policies need to be updated over time to reflect changes in our society, so today marks the continuation of the work that started with SB 270 and is an important new chapter in our efforts to be stewards of the communities we serve and the environment we enjoy.”
This bill is supported by the organizations listed above and constitutes a union of interests between business and environmental advocates to bring clarity and finality to California’s plastic bag bans.