What You Need to Know About the Plastic Bag Ban

Today's blog post was contributed by one of our Education Specialists, Becca.
Today’s blog post was contributed by one of our Education Specialists, Becca.

California recently passed Proposition 67 to ban plastic bags in our state. Most of us are probably wondering exactly how it will impact us. Having lived in Monterey when it banned plastic bags, I know it can be a process to understand the details to be prepared when the ban goes into effect. Here are a few answers to the most common questions we get.

What is the Plastic Bag Ban?
The plastic bag ban prohibits grocery stores, pharmacies, corner market stores and liquor stores from selling single use plastic bags. Instead, they will sell paper and reusable plastic bags for 10 cents each. Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags and won’t be charged a fee when they do.


The Plastic Bag Ban will go into effect December 9, 2016

What were some reasons for passing this ban?

  1. Protecting wildlife. Many marine animals confuse plastic bags for food. For instance, sea turtles confuse plastic bags for one of their main food sources, jellyfish.
  2. Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Plastic goes through a process known as photodegradation. Photo means light and as sunlight shines on plastics they become more and more brittle and break down into microplastics. These microplastics can hurt wildlife and humans alike as they travel up the food chain.
  3. Plastic bags never fully breakdown. This means less space in landfills for other waste items, as well as disruption of marine and terrestrial food chains by the presence of plastic bags.
  4. Less than 5% of plastic bags are recycled in California.
  5. In 2050, plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean.

When will the bag ban officially start?
December 9, 2016. If you go into a store that isn’t compliant after 12/9/16, call your city public works department to report them.

What happens if you forget your reusable bag?
You will be charged 10 cents for a paper bag or reusable plastic bag. To avoid this, bring your own reusable bags or carry items out of the store without any bagging. Always keep a few reusable bags with you to be prepared for shopping trips.

What about other plastic bags?
The bag ban only prohibits carryout plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies, corner market stores and liquor stores. All other plastic bags, like pet waste bags and trash bags, will still be available for purchase. If you’re inspired by the reasons behind the bag ban and wish to discontinue the use of plastic bags in other areas of your life, here are some ideas:

  • Pet waste bags. Picking up after your pup can be easy and zero waste! Simply purchase a small grabber and pick up your dog waste and place it immediately in a trash bin or flush it down the toilet. This method avoids bags altogether. If you need to use a bag, purchase a biodegradable bag or use a newspaper as a first option. If you desire to continue using plastic bags, reuse old bread, produce, cereal or newspaper bags. Cat lovers: we can help out your feline friends as well! For your litter box, introduce organic litter alternatives such as sawdust, mulch, or dirt. Slowly integrate these alternatives within the litter so the cats have time to adjust to the new litter. An alternative to fragrances that cover the smell is baking soda. If you prefer litter over the alternatives, purchase litter in bulk or in compostable packaging. To dispose of the cat waste, there are a few options. First, you can compost the waste in a cat waste specific compost bin and use the compost for ornamental plants. Learn more about how to do that here. If you don’t have enough space for your own compost, check to see if your local community compost collects animal waste. While you can flush dog poop, do not flush cat poop. Cats have a parasite in their feces that is not safe for humans or marine life.
  • Trash bags. Extend the life of your plastic trash bags by dumping out the trash in your trash can and reusing the bag. If you want to get rid of plastic all together, place newspaper or scratch paper at the bottom of the trash to collect excess trash and rinse out the garbage container every so often. We like this tutorial for a DIY Newspaper Garbage Bag. Incorporating practices to reduce your waste will create less need for trash bags such as composting food scraps and eliminating plastic packaging.
  • Shopping bags at other stores. Many other stores will still be using plastic bags at check out. Consider bringing your own reusable bag to clothing stores, pet stores and other retails stores to eliminate plastic bags.

I want to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. Where can I find some resources to begin my journey?
I Love A Clean San Diego’s Zero Waste 101: Home workshop will be taking place this Saturday from 1-3pm at South Chula Vista Library. It’s a great starting point to learn a few tips to begin a zero waste lifestyle at home! We welcome you to join us for this workshop and our upcoming series where we will explore how to adopt zero waste practices into your everyday life. We also offer our zero waste resource WasteFreeSD.org, where you can find more details regarding zero waste and how to enact different practices in your everyday life.To learn more about I Love A Clean San Diego and how we help protect our environment, please visit CleanSD.org!

Ditch the Disposable Lifestyle Part II: California Bag Ban

Monica headshotThis week’s blog comes from Monica, an ILACSD Environmental Educator! You may remember her last blog, Ditch the Disposable Lifestyle: Choose Reusables, where she provided us with many useful tips to help reduce our waste, including using reusable bags. Now that SB 270, also known as California Bag Ban, has been signed into law, Monica is here to share helpful tips to make reusable bags a part of your daily routine! 


Some Background: In late September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 270, making California the first and only state in the country with a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. While some applaud the effort, others are frustrated with it. However, unless an appeal is successful, come July 1, 2015, single-use plastic bags will no longer be available at your favorite grocery store or pharmacy.

Grocery stores will continue to carry paper bags for 10 cent each and plastic produce bags will still be available, which many people reuse to dispose of pet waste. Regardless of your position on this issue, our staff can assure you that the transition to a plastic bag free state will be easy, with a little practice.

Here are my top 6 tips to help get you in the habit well before July 2015 when the ban goes into effect. 

Bag Ban tips from Monica!
This bag is machine washable and made in the USA!

1. Hold off on buying a lot of new reusable bags.

  • Look around your house, in the closets, under the kitchen sink, under the bed. It’s likely that you already have reusable bags, or the materials to make your own!

2. I don’t have any bags. Which ones should I buy? Quality is important. You want to buy a bag that will last you a long time. Think years!

  • Materials: Cotton cloth bags are my favorite. They can hold a lot of weight and they’re machine washable. I’ve had one of my cloth bags since 2010 and still use it all the time!
  • Close the loop! Look for bags made from recycled materials.
  • Carbon footprint. American made bags would be great! You’ll be supporting American business and know that those bags traveled less to get to you and thus consumed less resources.
Director of Education, Sam, returning to the ILACSD office with her reusable bag!
Here’s Sam, our Director of Education, coming back from the store with one of our reusable bags.

3. Getting into the habit can be hard. Give it a few weeks, before you know it, you’ll never forget your bag. Here’s what helped me get into the habit:

  • Keep your bags somewhere handy & always in the same spot to save time.
  • Keep a couple in your car. Lots of us make impromptu stops to the store.
  • At ILACSD, we keep our shared reusable bags in the same spot. When one of us takes a trip to the nearby Vons or Trader Joe’s, we know exactly where to grab one.


4. Oh no, it happened, again! You’re about to pay for your groceries and realize you forgot your bags!

  • If I’m only buying a few things I’ll refuse the bag. “No thank you, I don’t need a bag”. I say that all the time, I don’t mind carrying a couple of items in my arms, or maybe I can fit them into my purse.
  • Take a tip from Costco, ask for a box! If they don’t have boxes, I’ll put bulky items in my cart, without a bag, transfer them to my trunk, and the whole shopping experience is bag-less. I lived in Suwon, South Korea for a year, where they banned plastic bags, and this is what a lot of people did. Try to maximize and get only the bags you need for smaller items.
Help prevent plastic pollution - choose reusables!
On a 30 minute walk with my dog at Discovery Park in Chula Vista (an adoptable canyon), I picked up 6 plastic bags!

5. Keep in mind WHY you’re doing this. For some of us, the motivation may be to save the 10 cents per paper bag, but every time we choose reusables, that means there are fewer plastic bags to pollute our watersheds and occupy the limited space in our landfills.

I know the few extra efforts I put into using my reusable bags and refusing disposable bags are worth it because I’m not contributing to pollution. When it rains, littered plastic bags flow into storm drains and eventually to the ocean. Many marine animals, like sea turtles, get entangled in the bags or eat them because they mistake them for food. Keeping this is mind motivates me to continue refusing single-use bags!

6. Have fun with it! Reusable bags give you a chance to show your personality, and can be just another accessory that allows you to make a statement. Just try not to make this statement:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX5Nf-BiOQ4] 

Although for some it will take time to adopt the reusable bag habit, our small efforts are bound to make a significant, positive impact on our environment.

Bag Ban tips from Monica!
Choosing reusable bags over single-use plastic bags is an easy choice!