Court of Appeal grants Environment California’s motion, upholds plastic bag ban

As Los Angeles bag ordinance begins, California’s cities can move forward with legal certainty

Environment California Research & Policy Center

San Francisco – The California Court of Appeal has definitely affirmed California’s cities’ right to protect the environment by banning single-use plastic bags. The Court today agreed to publish its unanimously decision to uphold San Francisco’s plastic bag ban in a December 10 decision, creating a legal precedent on which other cities may rely. Today’s ruling sets the stage for more cities to adopt local laws phasing out plastic bags, and to strengthen their existing laws by expanding them to include restaurants.

 “This is a great victory for our oceans,” said Nathan Weaver with Environment California. “The court’s decision makes clear once again that our communities have the right to keep plastic out of the Pacific by banning plastic bags and encouraging reusable bag use. Phasing out plastic bags is the right policy to protect our beaches, our rivers, and the amazing animals that live in the Pacific Ocean.”

Environment California Research & Policy Center, the City and County of San Francisco, the California League of Cities, and the California State Association of Counties all filed motions asking the court to publish its opinion. Plastics industry plaintiffs may still appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has rejected previous appeals by the industry coalition.

Single-use plastic bags are one of the most common garbage items on California’s beaches according to Ocean Conservancy beach cleanup data. The bags are a threat to ocean wildlife, like the leatherback sea turtles that mistake them for edible jellyfish. One in three leatherback sea turtles studied had plastic in their stomach, most often a plastic bag, according to an analysis of 370 autopsies.  So far, 90 California local governments have banned single-use plastic bags. Together, these jurisdictions represent nearly 1 in 3 Californians.

“Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute the ocean for hundreds of years,” commented Weaver.

The case is Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City and County of San Francisco, No. A137056.


Environment California is a state-based, citizen-funded, environmental advocacy organization working toward a cleaner, greener, healthier future.