Are Plastic Shopping Bags Being Sacked?

In earlier blog posts, we reported on the growing trend in U.S. cities to pass bans on single-use plastic shopping bags and impose fees for traditionally free bags provided in store checkouts, including the status of legislation proposed by Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to ban free shopping bags as of last November.

A year later, we are pleased to report that the trend continues. While Los Angeles’s single-use plastic shopping bag ban went into effect as of January 1, 2014 for large supermarkets and big box stores that sell groceries (such as Target and Wal-Mart), it was expanded to include drug stores, convenience stores, as well as all markets and groceries on July 1, 2014. In LA, both large and small grocery markets and other affected stores can no longer offer free plastic carryout bags to customers, and recycled paper bags may be offered at a cost of $0.10 per bag.

Last April, with “self-congratulation but no debate,” Chicago also passed legislation banning single-use plastic shopping bags, with exceptions for restaurants and small “non-franchise” independent retailers. In Chicago, the timing of the law’s effective date depends on the size of the store. Stores larger than 10,000 square feet have until August 1, 2015 to comply, while stores 10,000 square feet or less have until August 1, 2016. Unlike LA, the Chicago legislation does not require a 10-cent per bag charge for paper bags.

A group of New York City Council members continues to push a bill, introduced last March, which would impose a mandatory 10-cent per bag charge for single-use plastic and paper bags provided by grocery stores and restaurants. As of September, supporters were six votes shy of passing this proposed legislation. This legislation was slated for review by the New York City Council again on November 19th, but was laid over by the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management for further consideration, so stay tuned.

Earlier this fall, California became the first U.S. state to pass legislation prohibiting stores from providing free, single-use plastic shopping bags. The new law goes into effect for large grocery chains and pharmacies starting July 1, 2015, and will be extended to convenience stores and liquor stores July 1, 2016. Similar to LA’s shopping bag ban, under the state law, affected stores will be required to offer customers recycled paper bags or bags made of compostable material at a cost of at least 10 cents.

If this current legislative push continues, single-use plastic shopping bags may soon achieve the same status as lead paint or McDonald’s polystyrene foam sandwich containers – they will become a product of our past.

Related topics: Compliance, Green, Retail