Has California stopped enforcing its plastic bag ban?

April 9, 2020

Despite there being bans throughout California on single-use plastic bags, local jurisdictions are now moving to prohibit customers from bringing reusable bags to grocery stores amid fears they could spread the coronavirus. [OC Register]

Since the beginning of the outbreak, at least eight California counties, including San Francisco, have temporarily banned shoppers from bringing reusable bags to grocery stores. Likewise, it appears regulators have stopped enforcing at least one component of the existing bag ban rules.

In 2014, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that banned major stores from distributing single-use plastic bags in areas of the state that had not already enacted their own prohibitions. A 2016 ballot initiative aimed to overturn the law, but the measure failed.

The existing law also requires stores to charge a minimum of 10 cents for the paper or reusable plastic bags they distribute. Violators of the bag ban rules can face daily fines of $1,000 to $5,000.

Amid the ongoing outbreak, Trader Joe’s has banned customers nationwide from bringing reusable bags into stores. Likewise, Trader Joe’s is now giving shoppers paper bags for free.

Other California supermarkets are allowing customers to bring reusable bags if they bag their own groceries. Likewise, other grocery stores are continuing to charge 10 cents for reusable plastic bags.

In 2016, the California Grocers Association supported the single-use bag ban. However on March 25, the trade group wrote to Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking him to temporarily suspend the single-use plastic bag ban, as well as the required fee for store-supplied bags.

“This is a laudatory environmental policy, but it is simply not appropriate to expect our employees to handle and load customer’s used grocery bags at this time,” the California Grocers Association wrote to Newsom.

Additionally, fears over the coronavirus spreading in supermarkets have rekindled debate over the utility of single-use plastic bags.

The plastic industry is promoting plastic bags as a more sanitary alternative to reusable bags. Environmentalists, though, argue plastic bags should remain banned.

State regulators say they are examining additional protections for grocery stores, including possible measures to mitigate concerns about reusable bags.

Nationwide, plastic bag bans in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine have been suspended or delayed during the coronavirus outbreak, typically by proclamations issued by governors.


So, just two months ago SLO County IWMA was aggressively seeking to ban plastic bags for produce. This self empowered advisory board with literally no jurisdiction and that was formed to share costs between cities while addressing state mandates dodged a bullet. IWMA almost proliferated disease with their nonsense of going rogue and coming up with their own short sighted ordinance.


The other day the one time I remembered to bring my reusable bag to the store I was literally yelled at by a clerk.


But….. but…. what about the paper bags that destroyed trees? Or the plastic bags that choked turtles? Oh my…. what to do? I’m so confused. You get ordered to do one thing…. and then it turns out it didn’t lead to the outcome the “orderers” promised. Who oh who can I take an order from now?


This cracks me up. I tried to tell them this when they passed the assinine bag ban.

Reuseable bags were saving the planet, now they are killing the planet,


People really don’t think, I don’t care what you do to your reusable bag, the next joker might not do anything, their stupid house cat might walk all over them, their kid might wipe his nose on them, they might set them on the ground where someone barfed last week, and then set them on the check out belt line or the set up where you bag you food, my grocerys are on that belt line and bagging area, I see people setting the store carry basket on the belt line also, thats dumb for the same reasons, I usually make comments when i see this in the check out line just to see peoples reaction.


A related pet peeve, parents who set their infants in diapers and toddlers on public counters. I’m sure their darling little behinds are perfectly sanitary.


That’s why I always get the little carts that don’t have child seats in them


I only use plastic reusable bags to go to the store with. These days I sanitize the items and place in a cloth bag before taking into my house. And then I bleach solution sanitize the plastic bags. Not rocket surgery. Yeah, a little paranoid, but better safe than sorry…….


Sounds rational to me, and not too difficult.


Customers could always get no bags, leave their items in the cart, and bag them themselves at their car if they wished to use their own reusable bags.

Reusable bags provide a surface for minute amounts of nutrients to cling to, and potentially create a food source for microbes. An additional risk is that they could bring an infection from a customer’s home into a grocery store.

Trader Joe’s probably has the best solution to make all sides relatively happy: a free paper bag.


Absolutely! Bring back the paper bag.