Under the bill, SB 1046, stores are not allowed to give out “precheckout” bags unless they are compostable or a paper bag made from recycled materials.
The state is now the first in the country to get rid of such bags over time, possibly setting the stage for other states to take similar action. Stores must be in compliance with the new law by January 1, 2025, according to The Mercury News.
“This kind of plastic film is not recyclable. It’s a contaminant in almost any bin you put it into,” Nick Lapis said, per Mercury. Lapis is the Director of Advocacy for Californians Against Waste, a group that was in favor of the legislation.
“It flies around landfills and flies out of trucks. It gets stuck on gears at recycling facilities. And it contaminates compost. It’s a problematic product we want to get rid of,” Lapis added.
However, not everyone was in favor of the measure, namely the California Grocers Association. The group sent a letter to Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, one of the legislators who introduced the bill, in April, requesting that grocery stores have until 2025 instead of 2023 to implement the new rules regarding compostable materials.
The group also reportedly asked that local municipalities not be allowed to impose comparable regulations, or place fines on businesses that incorporate one-time use produce bags. Eggman didn’t concede on either of those points.
“They play a pivotal role in protecting consumers from possible contamination and food illnesses that result from raw packaged meats touching other products,” Leticia Garcia, director of state government relations for California Grocers Association, wrote in the letter. “These bags also provide an additional layer of protection when breakables, like wine bottles, are placed in grocery bags with other products.”
“Now that the governor has signed SB 1046, the grocery community is focused on preparing to comply with the new law by 2025,” Nate Rose, senior director of communications for the California Grocers Association, told SFGATE over email. “There are many moving pieces to navigate, mostly concerning how to source and scale compostable and recyclable pre-checkout bags for our shoppers in a supply chain environment that has not been without its challenges in the past few years.”
California also forces a toll on shoppers for checkout bags. Since 2016, when California voters passed Proposition 67, shoppers have had to pay at least 10 cents for a recycled bag or a reusable bag given to customers when they pay for their items.