How to Survive California’s Plastic Bag Ban

Lone Cypress on 17-mile Drive - Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
Lone Cypress on 17-mile Drive – Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Now that California voters have approved the statewide plastic bag ban; many consumers are now faced with the task of selecting and using an alternative method to transport their purchases home. All of these alternative methods are costlier, time consuming, and more inconvenient than the store provided paper or plastic carryout bags previously supplied through indirect cost.

Bag options available to the shopper are as follows:

  1. Use No Bags. In past surveys, about 42% of shoppers chose this option. Either carrying their groceries in their arms or putting them back in the shopping cart to transport their purchases back to the car.
  2. Use Your Own Plastic Bags. Use those plastic grocery bags you have stashed away and when they are gone, purchase your own plastic T-shirt bags. You can purchase a box of 1000 T-shirt carryout bags for between $10 and $25 either from a local distributor or from an internet store and are available in white or neon colors. Keep a box in each car you own and you will always have bags with you when you shop. Estimated yearly cost is about $45.
  3. Use Store-Provided Paper or Plastic Reusable Bags. This option will cost you a minimum of 10-cents per bag. Estimated yearly cost is about $78. By reusing these bags a few times for shopping, you can cut down your out-of-pocket cost.
  4. Bring and Use Your Own Reusable Bags. A wide variety of reusable bags are available for purchase from cloth to bags made from non-woven polypropylene and similar materials. Estimated yearly cost is between $250 and $300. The estimated cost not only includes your out-of-pocket cost to purchase and replace bags, but also includes the value of your time to manage and wash reusable bags.
  5. Bring and Use Your Own Collapsible Crate. Several types of collapsible crates or baskets are available that can be used to transport your groceries to your home.

Some additional tips:

  1. As a shopper, under state law, you can bring your own bag or basket of any type and use them for carrying your groceries home. You can even purchase your own plastic bags, even the ones that the environmental community and state legislators want to ban.
  2. Some shoppers who have used reusable bags will tell you “It is easy! It isn’t so hard!” However, before you allow yourself to be persuaded by their arguments, you should read the article titled “Using Reusable Bags Not That Easy” which identifies and addresses the difficulties and pitfalls of using reusable bags and then make up your own mind. (Williams & van Leeuwen, 2014)
  3. Some reusable bag users will tell you they never wash their bags. These shoppers may not have read the article entitled “Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags” which provides a more sober perspective. (van Leeuwen, Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags, 2013)
  4. Some shoppers will tell you that reusable bags are great and hold more than those flimsy plastic bags. While it is true that reusable bags hold more, we recommend that you read the article entitled “Reusable Bags and Ergonomic Issues” for a more realistic perspective. (van Leeuwen, Reusable Bags and Ergonomic Issues, 2013)
  5. If you decide to purchase your own T-Shirt bags, bring some extra to give away. You might just make someone’s day.

If you are interested in learning more about the methodology we used to evaluate annual costs of the different bag type options, we encourage you to read the article entitled “Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers”. This article discusses that calculating the annual cost of different bag types is much more than just estimating the number of bags used per year and multiply that by the cost per bag. In the case of reusable bags, there is a commitment of personal time to manage bags (fold them, inspect them, put them back in the car, etc.), washing bags and related utility costs. We calculate the cost of your personal time to handle and wash bags at $12 per hour as the value of your personal time. (van Leeuwen & Williams, Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers, 2013)

If you are shopper who doesn’t like having to pay 10-cents for a store-provided paper or plastic reusable bag, there are two articles we encourage you to read: The first article is entitled “Paper Bag Fee Setting a Bad Precedent” which discusses the issue of a government entity specifying a minimum price for a product sold by a private business. (van Leeuwen, Paper Bag Fee – Setting A Bad Precedent, 2014) The second article discusses shoppers who are exempt from paying that bag fee and is entitled “Plastic Bag Ban Creates New Welfare Benefit”. This article discusses how both local bag bans and the statewide bag ban creates two classes of shoppers; one class has to pay for store-provided paper and plastic bags and the other class gets them for free. (van Leeuwen, Plastic Bag Ban Creates New Welfare Benefit, 2013)


In the face of the statewide plastic bag ban, you as a shopper have to determine which bag option works best for you and your family.


van Leeuwen, A. (2013, June 2). Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban:

van Leeuwen, A. (2013, May 3). Plastic Bag Ban Creates New Welfare Benefit. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban:

van Leeuwen, A. (2013, June 23). Reusable Bags and Ergonomic Issues. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban:

van Leeuwen, A. (2014, January 27). Paper Bag Fee – Setting A Bad Precedent. Retrieved from Fight the Plastic Bag Ban:

van Leeuwen, A., & Williams, D. (2013, June 5). Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban:

Williams, D., & van Leeuwen, A. (2014, February 10). Using Reusable Bags: It’s Not That Easy. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban:


15 thoughts on “How to Survive California’s Plastic Bag Ban

  1. One other alternative…visit people in free states, and have the save their plastic bags for you. I have given some to friends and family that have visited.

  2. Shop online. Free shipping. No tax. More waste since I just returned everything I could not carry by hand. Punish the vendors who did not fight this thing thinking they would save costs. No more take out extras. Nothing!!!!

  3. Nice article,

    Though things will get interesting if the 5 million + unaccounted ballots ends up turning the results around in the end. I bet store will turn back to plastic bags. Though what is interesting is they might have already trucked in millions of paper bags around the state. And already dumped millions of plastic bags into the landfill.

    The measure is not officially passed until all the ballots are counted and verified around mid December.

    I just prey that the final results kill the ban but best if not before cities repealed their own bans, thinking that the state ban is here to stay.



  4. I will not give up my plastic bags as I use them for a number of things, not just a carry all for my groceries. I ordered online a box of T-Shirt Plastic Bags (exactly like the stores used) and there is 1000 in a box.

  5. Not at this time, that we are aware of. The public had the opportunity with Proposition 67 to say NO. Our side, those against the bag ban, lost. This does not mean we have to accept the status quo. If you want to overturn it, our side will have to remove all politicians at the local and state level who favor bag bans and then elect people who are opposed.

  6. I too brought a box of 1000 T-Shirt Plastic Bags. Hippies don’t tell me what to do. Prior to the law, I would throw these bags in the trash. now I throw them in the river. Stick it hippie.

    This stupid law is nothing but another tax on the poor.

  7. Honestly, our side lost because people were uniformed or duped. People had no clue what a Yes vote actually meant. I’ve talked to many people afterwards who now see the error of their ways.

  8. Honestly, people were uninformed. They had no idea what they were actually voting for, and a lot of them are angry that they were duped.

  9. True originally when the referendum qualified people were told a yes vote repeals the ban. Though somehow it became the opposite way around when the ballot measure came forward.

    I just think no way would this pass a referendum when 85% of shoppers in any supermarket in the state even in the most progressive coastal regions i.e coastal San Diego “vote” for plastic at the counters when asked.

    I bet at least 20% made the wrong choice at the ballot box alas with the against side being 14% but pro side 6% as the one sided media and organizations school them well and they do their homework. Or else it could had been 60% against and 40% for.

    Though I am puzzled where the millions of dollars the industry spent on the referendum went as I see no ads on tv or radio or even campaign signs on prop 67 unlike almost every other proposition on the ballot.

  10. I go to the produce section, drain the entire roll of small produce bags,and give them to the bagger to place my items in. One or two items at a time. It makes the point.

  11. Another way is to shop at businesses that are not affected by the ban nor try to implement it voluntarily. And boycott the big grocers that pushed for this law. Your best bets are independent shops that sells produce and other edibles but do not sell alcohol, independent produce stores/markets/stands, flea markets, farmers markets(though beware of the few market managers who insist their market follow the state rules even though it does not apply to their market), or family owned markets in farmlands.

  12. Recently came back from vacation and had to go to the grocery store. On my way there, remembered that I had forgotten to take bags with me. Then remembered I had a box of “contraband” plastic grocery bags in the trunk. Recommend, that everyone buy a box of plastic grocery bags for each car in the family. That way you will always have clean, sanitary bags at your disposal.

  13. All I can say is Seriously? I lived in California for 8 years and when the ban took effect, I really missed plastic bags. After awhile, I learned to carry a ton of carrier bags in my cars so I would never be without. Once you get used to a new practice it becomes easier, not to mention it’s just better for the environment. Have you ever visited a really pretty area and its covered in plastic bags and trash? I just moved to Virginia and while I was waiting for my vehicles to transport, I had to use the grocery bags and my first response after emptying out the bags was my gosh what an excess amount of waste in plastic bags.

    Find a new fight to fight …. this one you’ll get used to and maybe grow to appreciate that less can be more.

  14. Yours Truly,

    appreciate your comments. However, you are wrong. A plastic bag ban actually creates more shopping bag waste than no ban. As far as plastic bag trash, only 50% of plastic bags that are littered are affected by a plastic bag ban. Hence, you solve only 50% of the plastic bag litter problem and increase the shopping bag waste to landfills by a factor of more than four (4). Furthermore, only about 0.3% of roadside trash is plastic grocery bags. That leaves 99.7% of roadside trash left in the environment, unless someone cleans that up. If you can clean up the 99.7% certainly you can cleanup the other 0.3% at the same time with very little extra cost or effort.

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