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Reusable shopping bags. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Two Month Resusable Bag Ban Ends In California

Governor Newsom’s executive order for the reusable bag ban ends without renewal

By Evan Symon, June 30, 2020 5:00 pm

Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order that temporarily allowed free plastic bags inside supermarkets and other stores expired this weekend, leading to an uncertain situation between consumers, environmentalists, and health experts.

The plastic bag ban resumes

Executive Order N-54-20 was signed by Governor Newsom in late April, allowing stores to temporarily waive fees and bans on plastic and paper carryout bags over reusable bags. The order, which had been put into place to limit coronavirus spread through stores, had also temporarily invalidated SB 270, the 2014 law that instituted the ban in the first place.

Despite a growing number of cases within California, the Order was not renewed or extended due to heightened store precautions, concerns about plastic pollution, a more difficult process of extension due to the state legislature coming back, and many other factors.

The return of reusable bags has had a varied response in California. Many environmental groups are happy with the change despite the risk of transmission.

“In the last two months, we’ve seen the same problems come up from ten years ago,” said Anise Solano, an East Bay environmentalist. “Bags are back blowing on the street, a lot of plastic is going in the trash. And we know it’s been done for health reasons, but it’s just so much waste. At least paper bags are biodegradable.

It’s good that this order is over. As long as people pack their own things at check out with reusable bags and perform easy, common sense measures, it will be fine.

We just can’t continue how we’ve been going though.”

Other environmentalists agreed.

“The discontinued use of reusable bags at many California retailers has resulted in a severe shortage of recycled paper bags and the temporary return of single-use plastic bags by some retailers,” said Mark Murray, an environmentalist with Californians Against Waste. “The quick return to the practice of bringing reusable bags will reduce an unnecessary source of plastic pollution, reduce grocery costs for stores and consumers, and relieve the shortage of recycled paper bags.”

Stores, medical experts unsure of decision to allow plastic bag ban to resume

Medical experts aren’t quite sure though.

“It was enacted for a reason,” noted Los Angeles nurse Gina Lopez, who has helped care for coronavirus patients. “Many transmissions we’ve seen were traced back to grocery stores and bodegas before the ban. And then it went down after it was in place.

It wasn’t fool-proof, but that added length of distancing through single-use bags was another layer of protection, especially at check-out areas where bags were placed. We should have kept it in place, at least until the number of new cases in California drops.”

Consumers have been caught in the middle, as safety, pollution concerns, and ease of shopping have led to many being unsure about either policy.

“Our customers tend to just go with changes, but we’ve heard complaints from people not liking the return of plastic bags, and those upset at using reusable,” said Burbank supermarket co-manager Steve Costa. “What we really want, and what customers really want, is a safe experience, but one where they can use their preferred method.

With plastic bags out again, we’ve found a middle ground where bags you can buy are at some checkouts, while reusable are only available at others. It’s kinda tailored to what you want, and we think that’s a good middle ground as things change,”

With the ban resuming this weekend, and no executive order replacement in sight, it is widely expected that stores will go back to reusable bags under heightened conditions, with state lawmakers possibly coming up with a similar temporary ban reversal if coronavirus rates continue to go up.

Evan Symon
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6 thoughts on “Two Month Resusable Bag Ban Ends In California

  1. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Gov Gruesome, et al. As long as you continue to push a fake and unnecessary panic over COVID transmission-gone-wild then you’re going to have to continue to deep-six the re-useable grocery bag edicts. Re-useable grocery bags are disgustingly unhygienic in the best of circumstances, never mind in this time of phony and manufactured “pandemic.”

    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 (unsolicited) 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 staff is told to ignore the mess and bag the groceries without comment 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 very often, if at all, unlike what happens now. Or was happening for awhile, anyway.

    Apparently one time a bagger opened up a customer’s re-useable bag in preparation for packing it 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? The re-useable bags have ALWAYS been unhygienic and disgusting.

  2. Reusable bags are not green. A study was done that showed the best choice is the old single use bags which most people reuse anyway. This is a scam to sell you bags at the checkout line. The money goes to Gruesome, not the grocery store.

    1. I know, you’re right. I used to tell that to everyone who would listen, really made a pest of myself, except for the Gruesome part, because he wasn’t in office yet. Too bad he is in office now.
      Unfortunately the re-useable bags are only a token feel-good thing, but they are often disgusting and unhygienic because lots of people don’t wash them or clean them, and sometimes they can make you sick, which is a rich irony when everyone is freaking out about you-know-what-19.

  3. Funny, at my neighborhood store they supply only paper bags which go into our recycling/city composting bin.
    Enviroterrorists need to get out of our country and stay out.

  4. So either we have a Coronavirus crisis in California in which case single use plastic bag provision should be extended or we don’t really have a crisis in which case we can return to using reusable bags.

    If the Governor wants to maintain credibility, he needs to be consistent with this approach.

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