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Governor Gavin Newsom. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Statewide Plastic Bag Ban Suspended Until June

Governor Newsom temporarily suspends plastic bag law out of coronavirus concerns

By Evan Symon, April 24, 2020 1:39 pm

On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to suspend the 2016 plastic bag ban for 60 days out of COVID-19 coronavirus concerns.

The law, which started out as Senate Bill 270 in 2015 and later as Proposition 67 in 2016, was created to reduce pollution and to encourage reusable bag use. While plastic bags are still available for ten cents, they can no longer be given without approval from each customer.

The new executive order does not cover the more than 100 cities and towns in California that have their own plastic bag laws, but many are expected to follow regardless due to the coronavirus emergency.

Recycling in California was also put in a flux due to the executive order as beverage containers cannot be redeemed in stores for 60 days and  recycling centers now have to legally operate for a minimum number of hours during the crisis to make up for the increased number of bags and containers.

Food store groups and employees largely praised Newsom’s executive order. While many noted disappointment in having to use plastic bags more for the next few months, the impact and concern for employees was noted.

“We don’t know where reusable bags have been or who touched them or anything,” noted Matt Cahill, a supermarket section manager in Fresno. “We’re being exposed enough as is right now, and this lowers our risk of catching anything. And, in turn, that makes customers safer too.”

“Newsom’s executive order highlighted worker safety in his executive order.”

“These are critical to protect the public health and safety and minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for workers engaged in essential activities, such as those handling reusable grocery bags or recyclable containers where recycling centers are not available,” noted Newsom in his order.

However, others have come out in opposition, most notably environmental and consumer groups who had originally pushed for the ban four years ago. Some groups, such as Californians Against Waste, noted that  the bags pose no threat, and that, under state regulations, employees don’t even have to touch them.

“Reusable bags are perfectly safe, and pose zero threat to store employees and other customers as long as consumers take responsibility to bag their own groceries,” said Californians Against Waste Executive Director Mark Murray in a statement. “Retailers, while maybe well intended, inflicted this costly and unnecessary wound on themselves by discouraging consumers from bringing their own bags. The simple and safe solution for consumers and stores is for everyone to bring their reusable bags and bag their own groceries in line with Cal-OSHA guidelines.”

Revised OSHA guidelines for coronavirus specifically state that store workers can ask customers to bag their own groceries or simply leave out the bag so they don’t have to touch it.

The plastic bag ban is only temporary and will be back into effect starting on June 23rd.

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3 thoughts on “Statewide Plastic Bag Ban Suspended Until June

  1. “The plastic bag ban is only temporary and will be back into effect starting on June 23rd.”

    Why June 23rd? Is that when the Supreme California Leader allows the plebs back to work?

  2. Because I (used to) show up at the grocery store with sparkling clean canvas re-useable bags, the checkers and baggers would often comment on them and then tell me re-useable bag stories.

    Typically the staff has to deal with absolutely filthy bags that have never been washed and that contain dried up or even fresh chicken juice, fruit juice, or other unidentifiable juices and stains. What does one do? Apparently they have to ignore it and bag the groceries so as not to offend the customer. Keep in mind such bags have been all over that rubber conveyor belt which pre-CV-19 wasn’t wiped down as often as it is now.

    One bagger opened up a bag and there was a dead rat in it! She was an especially squeamish young woman and had a complete meltdown. She probably still hasn’t gotten over it.

    I think we should keep the regular store-issued plastic bags from now on and get rid of the re-useable stuff, don’t you? They were ALWAYS unhygienic and disgusting.

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