California Is the First State to Prohibit Plastic Produce Bags

California has become the first state to ban plastic produce bags—the single-use bags that grocery shoppers can find next to fruits and vegetables.

Photograph of man holding produce bag

Image via Getty/SOPA Images

Photograph of man holding produce bag

California has become the first state to ban plastic produce bags.

Peoplereports that the single-use bags will be slowly eliminated during the next two years, with them completely gone by Jan. 1, 2025, and to be replaced by recycled paper bags or compostable bags. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation, SB 1046 into law, which was sponsored by the environmental advocacy group, Californians Against Waste.

“The average working life of a plastic bag is 15 minutes, and over 100 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year,” the organization in a statement on its website. “Several studies have shown that contamination in compost waste streams decreases when consumers have convenient access to compostable bags.”

Produce bags are typically found on rollers in the produce area of the grocery store and often only have a one-time use—and they aren’t recyclable.

“It flies around landfills and flies out of trucks,” Nick Lapis, the group’s director of advocacy, said. “It gets stuck on gears at recycling facilities. And it contaminates compost. It’s a problematic product we want to get rid of.”

The ban also includes bags used for other merchandise like meat, fish, nuts, grains, candy, and bakery goods. The bill’s biggest foe was the California Grocers Association.

The state banned grocery bags five years ago, which has made a positive impact on litter. According to Californians Against Waste, a year after the ban, littering of grocery bags declined by 72 percent.

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