Demand Berkeley City Council To Close the Plastic Bag Loophole!

Altamont Landfill in Livermore, California

In 2014, California lawmakers made an initial effort to regulate plastic bags but stopped way short of a total ban—only some types of plastic bags are banned and only in a limited number of stores. Alameda County has regulated bags in additional stores but these efforts still leave a lot of loopholes, perpetuating the flood of plastic in our waterways, streets, and further contributing to the existing plastic-polluted ecosystems.

Despite the plastic industry’s influence on local governments resulting in regulation of only certain bag types in limited stores, there is still opportunity to expand such efforts through a plastic bag ban that will aim to tackle the larger plastic pollution crisis at hand! For example, the City of Berkeley can ban thick plastic carryout bags in any store not preempted by the state, including from restaurants, events, and retail stores. These bags are labeled “reusable,” but more often than not are just thrown away after a single use -- which again, perpetuates the issue at hand. Additionally, grocery stores provide free produce bags that customers believe are compostable but when in fact these bags aren’t composting facilities end up throwing them in the landfill! It is time for cities like Berkeley to step in and step up to implement change and invest in our community by taking serious action in combating dangerous plastic waste. We need to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags or, as a second and more sustainable choice, have an option for paper bags.

Join Berkeley High School students Alishba Shabir, of the Ecology Center and Anya Draves, of the Berkeley High School Zero Waste Club in demanding that the Berkeley City Council require commercial establishments not already regulated by the state or county to allow customers to bring their own bags or provide paper or other non-plastic film bags for a fee at checkout. Flimsy plastic bags from the produce aisle should also not be best practice and people should have the right to bring their own reusable bags and containers or use paper bags provided by the store.


By signing this petition, you are contributing to a grassroots effort within the City of Berkeley to combat the plastic crisis we face today!

The proposed Plastic Bag Ordinance, introduced by Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison, closes the loopholes in state and county law which have allowed plastic to proliferate in our community. The Plastic Bag Ordinance will prevent plastic waste, promote reuse, reduce Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve wildlife and natural ecosystems in the urban environment.

In October 2020, Alishba Shabir and Anya Draves combined their petitions to Berkeley grocery stores to stop providing customers with single-use plastic bags. Combined, the petitions received over 1,000 signatures. This ordinance addresses the issues that the both of them pointed out in their original efforts, and includes more entities.

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture, and only 3% of them are currently being recycled. 200,000 bags are dumped in landfill every hour, and they take between 50 and 1000 years to break down. This is why scientists predict that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Plastic is made from petrochemicals that emit dangerous greenhouse gases.

Plastic is a grave threat to marine life and ecology, as well as the atmosphere and global health, because it is made from petrochemicals that emit dangerous greenhouse gases—especially plastic bags, which are used on such a massive scale and can’t be recycled. In order to combat the overuse and wrongful waste of plastic bags, we have to begin to reduce the amount of plastic we consume on a daily basis, beginning with carryout and pre-checkout bags. Even “compostable” plastic bags are a problem as Berkeley’s recycling facility cannot process them. While paper bags are truly compostable, they require significant energy and water to produce and customers should be encouraged to use them as a last resort with a reasonable fee.

Tell the Berkeley City Council that it is time to enact local regulations that close environmentally destructive loopholes in state and county law!


The ordinance fills gaps in county and state law to ensure that thick plastic bags and non-compostable produce bags don't end up in our waste stream:

See here for more details about the ordinance.

By signing and sharing this petition, we will let the Berkeley City Council know that it is time to phase out plastic from our community.

This petition is supported by:

  • Ecology Center

  • Berkeley High School Zero Waste

The petition will be emailed directly to:

  • Mayor Jesse Arreguín

  • Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani (District 1)

  • City Councilmember Terry Taplin (District 2)

  • Councilmember Ben Bartlett (District 3)

  • Councilmember Kate Harrison (District 4)

  • Councilmember Sophie Hahn (District 5)

  • Councilmember Susan Wengraf (District 6)

  • Councilmember Rigel Robinson (District 7)

  • Councilmember Lori Droste (District 8)

  • City Clerk