California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Shopping? Take Reusable Bags! 

Drawing up a gift list for the holiday season? Be sure to take along reusable shopping bags when heading out to the mall or your favorite retailer.


Consider Making the Switch

  • In the United States, consumers use an estimated 100 billion plastic bags annually, but only about 5 percent of plastic bags and plastic film is recycled, which means most eventually ends up in landfills, open spaces, or waterways. The plastic bag recycling rate in California is estimated at between 1 and 3 percent.
  • Californians use an estimated 13 billion plastic bags annually. That’s almost 400 bags per second.
  • In California, approximately 247 million pounds—that’s 24 billion bags!—end up in landfills every year.
  • According to a study commission by the Natural Resources Defense Council, California state and local government spends roughly $428 million annually to protect the Pacific Ocean and state waterways from litter, and between 8 and 25 percent of that cost is attributable to plastic bag waste. California, along with its cities and counties, spend an estimated $34 million to $107 million annually to manage plastic bag litter in the state, based on cleanup data for San Jose and Los Angeles County alone.
  • Studies have found plastic accounts for up to 90 percent of trash in our lakes and waterways, and single-use disposable plastic bags make up a large portion of the litter. Plastic bags, which can resemble jellyfish or sponges, can be mistaken for food or prey by seabirds, marine mammals, fish, and sea turtles. In fact, 86 percent of all known species of sea turtles have had reported problems of entanglement or ingestion of marine debris.
  • More than 85 California cities and counties, large and small, have adopted local ordinances prohibiting retailers from using single-use plastic shopping bags, with more than 30 bag bans adopted this year alone. Prohibitions on single-use disposable bags will soon cover one-third of California’s population.

Sources: California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, California 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study; Californians Against Waste; Natural Resources Defense CouncilZero Waste San Diego.

Holiday Home Page

Last updated: December 4, 2014
Public Affairs Office, (916) 341-6300