California Legislature Contemplates Plastic Bag Ban

By August 3, 2010 Blog, Business Law

In a recent post, we discussed the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition’s case against the City of Manhattan Beach, claiming that when a city or county in California adopts a plastic bag ban, it needs to complete an environmental impact report.  The California Supreme Court’s review of that case may become moot.

The California Senate Appropriations Committee is holding hearings on a new bill (AB1998) that would effectively impose a statewide ban on plastic bags for supermarkets, convenience stores, food marts and pharmacies with over 10,000 square feet of retail space.  These retailers would be prohibited from handing out plastic or paper bags to customers at the checkout counter.  Instead, retailers could give away reusable bags or offer recycled paper bags for a fee of not less than 5 cents per bag.  They would be required to offer reusable bags for sale.  In San Francisco (and only San Francisco), retailers will also be able to sell certain compostable bags for at least 5 cents per bag.

As currently drafted, the law defines a “reusable bag” and a “recycled paper bag.”  Reusable bags must be designed and manufactured to survive at least 100 uses.  The Department of Toxic Substances Control is charged with further requirements for reusable bags and labeling requirements.  Starting January 1, 2013, reusable bag manufacturers will have to be registered with and certified by the state.  Recycled paper bags must have at least 40% post-consumer recycled content and be accepted for recycling in curbside recycling programs.

If passed, the law will become effective for supermarkets and covered pharmacies on January 1, 2012.  It becomes effective for convenience stores and food marts on January 1, 2013.  Governor Schwarzenegger has indicated he will sign the bill if it is approved by the legislature.

In the meantime, Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach has been fully briefed but not yet argued.  If AB1998 becomes law, it will preempt all other city, county or local public laws, including Manhattan Beach’s ordinance.  The new law may become effective before the California Supreme Court reaches a decision, possibly causing them to decline to issue a decision.

To follow the progress of AB1998, click here and enter “AB1998” into the search line. You can request automatic e-mail updates on Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach, by clicking here.

Anne E. Senti-Willis, Business Group