California governor issues executive order affecting plastic grocery bags, beverage container redemptions

Order suspends plastic bag ban and pauses redemption of beverage containers in stores.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-54-20 Wednesday, April 22, which suspends the state’s plastic bag ban and also approves a 60-day suspension in the redemption of beverage containers in stores as well as a mandate for recycling centers to operate a minimum number of hours.

The executive order does not affect the more than 100 cities and counties that adopted their own ordinances banning or regulating single-use plastic bags that were in effect before Jan. 1, 2015.

According to the executive order, the suspensions have been issued “to protect the public health and safety and minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for workers engaged in essential activities, such as those handling reusable grocery bags or recyclable containers where recycling centers are not available; and whereas contact exposure at retail establishments, beverage dealers and recycling centers could spread COVID-19, necessitating precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

The state order is designed to maximize physical distancing while providing space for California businesses to adapt to rapidly evolving circumstances.

While California has temporarily suspended enforcement of bottle and can takeback requirements, local retailers and recycling centers may determine whether to close or stop redeeming CRVs. Consumers are asked to call ahead before bringing CRV containers, including aluminum cans and polyethylene terephthalate bottles, for redemption under the state's bottle bill.

The novel coronavirus that is responsible for COVID-19 has been found to be stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces, according to a study from National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that the coronavirus was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.