THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS ORDINANCE
Despite a 15-year statewide effort in California, recycling plastic bags has failed. In fact, the California Integrated Waste Management Board estimates that less than 5% of all single-use plastic bags in the state are actually recycled. Most of the time, these bags end up in landfills, litter the landscape, pollute our river and creeks, and jam recycling equipment.
According to Californians Against Waste, cities and counties that instituted a single-use plastic bag ban (including a fee for paper bags) have seen single-use plastic bag use decrease by 95%, paper bag use decrease by 30%, and plastic litter in waterways decrease by 60%.
DATE THE ORDINANCE TAKES EFFECT
The Single-Use Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance goes into effect on January 1, 2016.
PURPOSE OF THE ORDINANCE
The intent of the Single-Use Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance is to significantly reduce the use of single-use plastic bags so there is less plastic waste in the environment and our landfills.
Under this ordinance, the use of single-use plastic bags will no longer be permitted at retail stores. There are some exceptions outlined in these FAQs. Paper bags and reusable plastic bags will be allowed. However, retailers will be required to charge customers no less than 10 cents per bag to encourage customers to use reusable bags. The 10 cents fee is not taxable. Retailers will retain the revenue to offset the costs of providing paper bags or reusable plastic bags.
A single-use, plastic carryout bag is any bag less than 2.25 millimeters thick that is made predominately of plastic derived from petroleum or bio-based sources (such as corn or other plant source). These bags include compostable, non-compostable, and biodegradable plastic bags. These bags are typically made with handles, and can be found at most retail stores. All single-use plastic bags provided at the point of checkout for retail sales are covered by the ordinance and as noted in the definition above.
Bags used within stores where health, safety and moisture may be a concern will not be affected (including bags for produce, bulk foods, meat, seafood, flowers and other similar uses). In addition, home delivery bags for newspapers, dry cleaning and plastic bags sold in packages (for garbage or pet waste) are allowed. Plastic bags for take-out orders from restaurants are permitted.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE ORDINANCE
Yes. The following uses are exempt from the requirements of the Single-Use Plastic Bag Reduction.
- Plastic produce bags used for vegetables, fruits and meats or loose bulk items such as nuts, grains, beans and pasta, distributed at grocery stores and farmers’ markets
- Bags used to protect breakable glass items
- Newspaper, laundry or dry cleaning bags
- Pharmacy bags used to contain prescription drugs
- Bags used for the transportation of prepared take-out foods and liquids from restaurants and other food providers
Since 2011, there has been no California law mandating a retailer to provide a bag for purchased alcoholic beverages. If a paper bag with handles is provided, the 10 cent fee must be applied.
DEFINITION OF A RECYCLED PAPER BAG
Recycled paper bag means a paper carryout bag provided by a store to a customer at point of sale. The bag contains no old-growth fiber, a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled material, and is 100% recyclable. The word recyclable must be printed in some manner on the outside of the bag, along with the name and location of the manufacturer and the percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
DEFINITION OF A REUSABLE BAG
Reusable bag means either a bag made of cloth or other machine-washable fabric that has handles. It can also be a durable plastic bag with handles that is at least 2.25 mil thick, and is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.
FEES FOR RECYCLED PAPER OR PLASTIC BAGS
All retail businesses included in the ordinance are prohibited from distributing free single-use plastic and paper carryout bags. If businesses decide to make recycled paper carryout bags available for their customers, they are required to sell them for no less than 10 cents per bag. The charge must be listed as a single line item on the customer’s receipt, and is not taxable to the consumer according to the State Board of Equalization.
The 10 cent fee on recycled paper or plastic carryout bags is intended to encourage customers to bring reusable bags and reduce their dependence on single-use bags of all types, both paper and plastic. All of the revenue from the cost remains with the retailer. The fee is not a tax as none of it goes to the city.
You can avoid the charge by bringing your own bag or carry your item(s) without a bag when you make a small purchase. Just say no to disposable bags.
HOW TO OBTAIN A REUSABLE BAG
Reusable bags are widely available for purchase at select retail stores, markets, and many organizations and businesses that offer such bags for free through promotions and events. Don’t overlook the bags you already have in your home or office, including tote bags made of canvas or nylon. A limited number of free reusable bags are available at the American Canyon City Hall.
Stores are required to provide customers participating in the California Special Supplemental Food program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and customers participating in the Supplemental Food (SNAP) program with a reusable bag or recycled paper bag at no cost at the point of sale.
FORGETTING YOUR BAG
Getting used to new habits takes a little time and practice. If you forget your bag, most stores will offer reusable paper bags for a minimal charge (generally 10 cents). To avoid the need to purchase bags, keep reusable bags in your car, tuck a small, collapsible bag into your purse or glove box, or attach one to your keychain for quick shopping trips. Over time, bringing your own reusable bags into stores will become second nature, much like fastening your seatbelt.
BAGS FOR PET WASTE
Local pet stores sell bags specifically for this purpose. The sale of these bags will not be affected by this ordinance in any way. Existing pet waste stations on trails and in parks will continue to provide plastic bags for discarding pet waste. There will still be many plastic bags in circulation. You may also consider using bread, chip, produce, bulk, cereal, or newspaper bags.
Information about new options for residents and customers will be shared online, in newsletters and local media, through point-of-purchase information, in training sessions for retailer staff, and through outreach at community events. A reusable bag promotion is also being developed in order to support local retailers in transition.
For a full review of these FAQs and many others, please click here.