Recycling is under attack in California. While a group of misguided elected officials in Sacramento are pushing to ban recyclable bags in California, other elected officials have stepped up and protected our state's recycling.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If passed, AB 2236 and SB 1053 will ban recyclable film plastic bags in California. These companion bills are modeled on legislation from other states that have increased plastic use and greenhouse gases and failed to reduce single-use behavior. Get the facts about these proposed plastic bags below.

What types of bags are currently allowed under current California law?

California has a single-use carryout bag ban, SB 270. Customers cannot receive single-use plastic carryout bags from most grocery stores, retail stores with a pharmacy, convenience stores, food marts, and liquor stores. Instead, these stores provide reusable film plastic bags made with recycled content or recycled paper bags for a fee of 10-cents or more per bag. Current law requires film bags to contain 40% certified post-consumer recycled content.

Are the bags allowed under current California law recyclable?

Yes. Film plastic bags are recycled at many retailers throughout the state. In December 2023, ARPBA surveyed consumer behavior under California’s current law. While most film bags end up in a landfill, it’s because they’re used as trash bags. In fact, the survey found that 60% of consumers reuse film plastic bags as an affordable alternative to traditional trash bags because the law mandates that they be three times thicker.

What are California’s AB 2236/ SB 1053 bags made from?

Plastic. Due to its low cost, most of these alternative bags will be made with polypropylene, which under California SB 343, is designated as a non-recyclable product.

How many times does the average consumer reuse the bags outlined in AB 2236 / SB 1053?

A recent study examining a similar reusable bag policy in New Jersey found that reusable bags now average only 2-3 uses. The study also shows that following New Jersey’s ban on single-use bags, the shift from plastic film to alternative bags resulted in a nearly 3x increase in plastic consumption for bags. At the same time, 6x more woven and non-woven polypropylene plastic was consumed to produce the reusable bags sold to consumers as an alternative. This shift in material also resulted in a notable environmental impact, with the increased consumption of polypropylene bags contributing to a 500% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to non-woven polypropylene bag production in 2015.

While not covered in the Freedonia study, similar legislation in Connecticut, Delaware, and New York, which outlawed film recyclable bags while allowing retailers to offer paper bags, saw similar spikes in emissions and landfills.

How much will consumers be charged for the reusable bags described in California’s AB2236/SB1053?

Based on the implementation of similar bills in other states, consumers can expect to be charged between $1 and $2 per reusable bag. This is over 10x the cost to produce these bags. As a result, lower-income Californians will be the most impacted.