California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed Senate Bill 1046, making it the first state to require grocery stores to phase out plastic produce bags.
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2025, was sponsored by state Sens. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, with the goal of requiring produce bags to be reusable or compostable.
"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," Eggman said. "SB-1046 is also an indispensable tool our local jurisdictions can use to meet our state's composting and organic waste diversion requirements."
The bill says stores cannot provide customers with a "pre-checkout" bag, defined as any bags given before the point of sale and that are designed to protect items from touching other things or being damaged while shopping.
Stores will be required to use compostable, reusable or recyclable bags. To make it easier for consumers, the law also will no longer allow the use of green, beige or brown tinting for bags that do not meet compostability requirements.
"SB-1046 is a confluence of the state's policies around diverting organic waste and our shift away from plastic," said Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for the environmental group Californians Against Waste, which supported the law. "Not only are we eliminating an unnecessary and polluting form of unrecyclable film plastic, but we are also giving consumers a new tool to increase participation in our state's new composting program.
"It is also remarkable that the bill passed the Legislature in a single year, unlike the plastic checkout bag ban that took over a decade (not to mention 150 local ordinances, a decision of the CA Supreme Court and two ballot measures)," he said. "I hope that is a reflection of the Legislature's strengthening resolve and much greater understanding of the problems posed by both plastic pollution and the landfilling of food scraps."
In 2014, California became the first state to eliminate plastic bags from checkout lines at grocery stores. SB-270/Proposition 67, the banning of single-use carryout bags, originally passed in August 2014. The bill was meant to take effect July 1, 2015, but was pushed onto the ballot for November 2016 and passed with a 52 percent approval vote.
California has also passed an extended producer responsibility bill, SB-54, this past June, requiring all packaging in California to be either recyclable or compostable by 2032.