The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

May 28, 2010

Could California be the First State to Ban Plastic Bags?

11/09/2016 Update: Six years after this post was written, California has FINALLY banned plastic bags across the state!

California plastic bag banI’m pissed off. I live in a city, like many others in California, that wants to ban plastic shopping bags, but we can’t. Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and other California cities are under attack by the plastics industry. None of these cities has been able to put their plastic bag bans into effect because of industry deep pockets that have successfully sued to require each city to conduct an environmental impact report (EIR) showing that banning plastic bags would not have a detrimental impact.

Our cities cannot afford to spend $150,000 to $200,000 each to conduct EIRs. That’s why nothing has come of Oakland’s bag ban or any of the others. My city can’t afford to keep enough cops on the streets (just ask Michael, who got mugged several months ago right across from our house), much less pay thousands of dollars to prove plastic bags suck. City by city bag initiatives are not going to work. We need action on the state level. And we need it THIS WEEK.

Whether you live in California or know someone who lives in California, you can help. And it won’t take any more time than finishing a cup of coffee. Probably not even that long. The steps are simple. At the bottom of this post, I’ve included easy, automated ways to contact your legislators and ask them to support AB 1998.

AB 1998: What does it do?

State Assembly Bill 1998, authored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, would ban all single-use carry-out plastic bags from California stores and require stores to charge a .25 “green bag fee” for all paper bags. The “green bag fee” would be remitted to a new state Paper Bag Pollution Cleanup Fund. Discouraging both paper and plastic bags should eliminate the need for an EIR, since the question of whether plastic is worse than paper would be off the table.

AB 1998 was passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and will be voted upon this coming Friday by the full Assembly. If passed and signed by the governor, the law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. We have ONE WEEK to ask our assembly members to support his bill!

Ask your Legislators to Pass AB 1998

Environmental organizations across California have set up ways for you to contact your legislators about this bill. Here are several of them. Please choose an option and go for it. If you only have time to click a button and fill in your info, please do that. If you have more time and can add a personal message, that’s even better. But whatever you do, please DO SOMETHING.

  • Environment California has set up their Big push on banning plastic bags action page. The only required information is your name and email address. This one is the easiest option, but it’s not going to get your message to your specific legislator. Choose this option if you are running out the door and truly have no time do more.
  • Heal the Bay’s AB 1998 Action Letter requires your name, full street address, and email address. Heal the Bay will print out the letters and deliver them to Assembly member Brownley.
  • Californians Against Waste’s AB 1998 Support Letter page uses your address to send a letter to your specific assembly member. First, you put in your zip code, then address if required. This is my favorite one because it allows you to contact the legislator who works for you!
  • Faxing letters is even more effective than emailing them.  To make more of an impact, use the information generated by Californians Against Waste’s AB 1998 Support Letter page to print and fax a letter directly to your assembly member, with your personal signature.  I would suggest snail mail too, but at this point, there might not be enough time.

All 3 sites include a form letter that you can personalize if you have time. Adding a sentence about why banning plastic bags is important to you helps a lot!

Know anyone in California?

If you don’t live in California, you can still help by forwarding this information to anyone… anyone at all… you know who lives in California. Forward this blog post. Or forward any of the above links. Just let them know this is an important issue to you, we only have a week to go, and we need their support.

Blog, Tweet, Facebook this Information!

You can link back to this page or create your own page.  I don’t care.  But if you have a blog or are connected to a network through Twitter or Facebook or other types of social media, please send out this information to your people.  Let them know time is of the essence.  Ask them to not only send a letter themselves, but to forward to their networks as well.

Remember: Our personal actions matter. Refusing plastic bags at the grocery store is important. But imagine a world in which there are no plastic bags to refuse. It doesn’t have to be a wishful thought. We can make it happen!

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13 years ago

They should have banned both paper and plastic. As a delivery driver for a company that manufacturers both plastic and paper products, this law I believe will actually make it worse on the environment. First off the energy that our company uses to manufacturer paper bags is far greater then that of plastic bags. If you add in the fuel that is needed to transport paper bags to their location then the environmental impact may actually be even worse of that of plastic bags.

I used to do one 53 foot trailer load of plastic bag delivery to a San Francisco supermarket every six months. Now that San Francisco has already banned the use of plastic bags in supermarkets, I now drive that same 53 foot trailer once or twice a month to the same supermarket filled with paper bags. The cost is 100 gallons of diesel back and forth. If you can do the math then you would realize how much more energy paper bags wastes to make and transport then that of plastic bags.

Before you even ask, yes that market already does a ten cent fee to customers for a paper bag. It has done nothing to reduce their consumption of paper bags.

Hopefully next time they decide to pass some more environmental laws they can think a little bit harder about the side effects it may cause.

Beth Park
13 years ago

I live in Luxembourg (a rather small country in Europe located in the corner between France, Germany and Belgium). About a year ago, maybe two, all the grocery stores in the entire country just stopped giving out plastic bags. Not sure how they coordinated this (I kind of assumed the initiative came from the government but I don’t know). We now have to either bring our own bags (which we already did) or pay 3 cents to buy one. Amazing how quickly it became the norm to walk around with your own bags. They also sell bags that are made from the plastic that is picked up at our doorstep for recycling. Great initiative and literally from one day to the next, no bags available unless you buy them.

13 years ago

Here in Canada, many, if not most, stores (of ALL types, even clothing stores or pharmacies) charge for plastic bags. This has been a very effective way of getting people to switch to reusable bags. While visiting my daughter recently in a different province, I ended up stuffing 3 bras into my purse and pockets in order to avoid the 5 cent plastic bag charge. I have many reusable bags in my car but it was 2,000 km. away. Grocery stores have been doing this for some time but now it’s beginning to catch on everywhere. This seems to me more effective as people seem to resent being forced to do something. Maybe Canadians are just more frugal and resent having to pony up the extra nickel per bag?

13 years ago

Thanks, Beth! Once again you’ve provided information that my local (San Diego!) media has not. Never heard of this legislation until I stopped by your blog today. Took all the actions listed. For the bag tax supporters: Note that if you get a (paper only) bag at the store, it’ll cost you a quarter. Bet it won’t take long til you remember to bring your own bags. I always bring my own bags and the people in line with me aren’t impressed by my nickel a bag refund. In this case, I think the stick will prove more motivating than the carrot.

Jennifer Margulis
13 years ago

I am SO WITH YOU on this. Forwarding this information to everyone I know! Thank you. I hope OREGON (where I live) will be next. Plastic bags are disgusting, polluting, and bad in so many ways. We don’t need 200,000 to prove what we all already know. I don’t know how people in the plastics industry sleep at night.

John Costigane
13 years ago

Hi Beth,

It comes as no surprise that the plastic industry vested interest opposes enthusiasts’ Zero Waste aims. Good luck with the campaign to support a ban on plastic bags but remember that we consumers can promote the drive to Zero plastic bags ourselves, and influence others.

Here in the UK, reusable bags are everywhere and likely to increase with time. There is nothing the plastic industry can do to change that. They simply should take up Zero Waste themselves and be part of our shared sustainable future.

13 years ago

I’m not supportive of a ban. I’m supportive of a tax, or (as many stores have already begun) a refund of so much for every bag refused.


Akiko Kanna Jones
13 years ago

I posted this on my site as well. I am excited to see the results next week.
I am making another short video of “Dance 4 Oceans” now. A friend of mine told me that she started to notice plastic trash everywhere after watching my first video. That’s a good start.

13 years ago

Guess what made 28 out 50 worst inventions ever list in Time Magazine??

13 years ago

Even if you don’t live in CA, you be part of this worldwide effort. is a large online community of individuals who are committed to eliminating plastic bags from their lives to create a better environment for future generations. Our community members tell us that the biggest challenge they face is remembering to bring their bags to the store. The plastic bag habit is tough to break even when you really want to. Which is why we created a FREE car window static cling to remind you and others to bring your own bags when you go in the store. It really works! You will never forget your reusable bags again. Go to to get yours today! Together we can make a difference….

13 years ago

I retweeted this and will also contact everyone I know in California. Good luck! What California starts, the other states benefit from eventually. Thanks so much for being on top of this.

Our Red House
13 years ago

I live in Adelaide, South Australia and we have had a plastic shopping bag ban at supermarkets and most other stores since May last year. It’s great, and everyone has adjusted with a minimum of fuss.

There are still plastic bags for produce, but that’s about it.


13 years ago

Sad to say the ban never came here. The plastic industry threatened to sue and city politicians ran screaming and crying like little school children.
Good luck to California on this effort.

13 years ago

First there is the natural environment.

Then something is added to that environment that is not natural.

Then you have to prove that the something added will not hurt the environment by being removed, before it can be removed?

Is there logic in the foregoing??? Someone please point it out to me.

Oh, I just remembered…perhaps this is “lawyer logic” a rapidly growing area of understanding that never seems to make it into logic textbooks, yet is the most common form of logic used in America today and understood only by members of the legal profession. How silly of me not to recognize it! Sorry to bother everyone with this needless post when I answered my own question. Duh!

and also grrrrrrrrr.

Elizabeth B
13 years ago

E-mailed Jerry Hill. Thanks for the heads up!

13 years ago

It would be better if they weren’t printing out the letters. I support this bill but cities can do something to. The key is not to ban bags but tax them. Requiring stores to keep inventory of bags used would put an end to the bags very quickly.