By Trey Granger on Jun 15, 2010

Did Walmart Beat California To the Plastic Bag Punch?


Walmart's pilot program allows consumers to either bring in their own reusable bags or buy a reusable bag for either 15 cents or 50 cents. Photo: Flickr/Robot Apocalypse

As California contemplates a statewide ban on retailers offering free single-use bags, at least three stores in the Golden State already enforce such a policy. Walmart stores in Sacramento and Ukiah stopped offering single-use bags to shoppers in October, as reported by Triple Pundit.

The company as a whole has committed to reducing plastic bag waste by 33 percent per store by 2013. The pilot program at these three stores allows consumers to either bring in their own reusable bags or buy a reusable bag for either 15 cents or 50 cents, depending on size.

If passed, California’s bag law would be implemented differently than Walmart’s policy. It would ban retailers from giving out single-use plastic bags, but they would still be able to offer single-use paper bags at a fee of at least 5 cents per bag.

The bill justifies the continued use of paper bags, provided they are made of 40 percent recycled content, because they “are a high value recyclable collected in every curbside and community recycling program in California.”

Another area where Walmart and the state law will differ is that California requires that any reusable bags being sold are designed and manufactured for at least 100 uses, and Walmart’s bags are said to last about 75 uses.

While AB 1998 has received opposition over fears that reusable bags can transfer bacteria from items such as meat to other foods, the law does make a point to exclude single-use bags from anything “used to protect a purchased item from damaging or contaminating other purchased items when placed in a recycled paper bag or reusable bag,” as well as for bagging medications. In these cases, single-use packaging could still be used.

If California’s law is passed, it won’t take effect until 2012, but it would also remove the requirement that grocery stores offer plastic bag recycling containers. This could make it more of a challenge for residents that still have bags to find recycling options, since they typically aren’t collected in curbside programs.

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      • Banana Diana

        What is AB 1998? Informative post. Thanks, doing research for a paper.