Plastic produce bags could soon be a thing of the past in California, as the state just became the first in the U.S. to ban them from grocery stores.
On Sept. 30, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill banning the plastic bags typically used for fresh produce and meat. The legislation states that stores in California can now only provide so-called “pre-checkout bags” if they are compostable or made from recyclable paper.
The bill builds on Proposition 67, a ballot measure that banned plastic carry-out bags in 2016.
Out of the estimated 40 million tons of plastic waste generated across the U.S. in 2021, at least 85% was sent to landfill sites. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, meaning it slowly leaches toxic chemicals into the soil and water, damaging the natural ecosystem.
Although the bill has now been signed, the California Grocers Association successfully lobbied to push its effective date back to January 1, 2025. The new date will ideally give grocery stores enough time to update their stores accordingly.
Those involved in creating the bill as well as local shoppers are celebrating the success of the bill being signed.
“Requiring compostable bags be provided by grocery stores in lieu of plastic produce bags is a critical step to increasing and cleaning our composting streams,” Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, the bill’s author, said in a statement. “SB 1046 is also an indispensable tool our local jurisdictions can use to meet our state’s composting and organic waste diversion requirements.”
“We have to solve the plastic problem because we’re idiots,” shopper Barbara Dixon told ABC News in San Jose. “Humans have got to stop doing crazy stuff and start fixing things.”