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Waste Reduction Program for Carryout Bags Ordinance Begins Soon

Ordinance bans the issuance of plastic carryout bags and imposes a 10 cent fee on paper bags. Starts March 21, 2014. Enforcement begins September 1, 2014.

Feb. 20, 2014

Waste Reduction Program for Carryout Bags Ordinance Begins Soon

The Board of Directors of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, a Joint Powers Authority composed of the Cities of Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Sonoma; the Town of Windsor; and the County of Sonoma, voted unanimously today to adopt an ordinance to reduce carryout bag waste throughout Sonoma County.

“This ordinance will cause a dramatic decrease in the estimated 258 million plastic carryout bags used throughout Sonoma County annually,” said Henry Mikus, Executive Director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. 

The ordinance is effective on March 21, 2014, and retailers are encouraged to phase out their existing stock of plastic carryout bags as soon as possible, but enforcement will not begin until September 1, 2014.  The ordinance will be effective countywide unless a member jurisdiction formally opts out of the ordinance.

This carryout bag waste reduction ordinance prohibits retail establishments (excluding public eating establishments and nonprofit charitable reusers, as defined by the ordinance) from providing customers with plastic carryout bags at the point of sale or other departure point. 

Bags exempt from this ordinance include plastic bags without handles

(1) to transport produce, bulk food or meat from a produce, bulk food or meat department within a store to the point of sale;

(2) bags used to hold prescription medication dispensed from a pharmacy; or

(3) bags used to segregate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other food or merchandise when placed together in a reusable or recycled paper bag. 

Paper bags made of at least 40% post consumer recycled content may be provided to customers for a minimum charge of $0.10 per bag.  Reusable bags, as defined by the Ordinance, may also be provided to customers. 

Retail establishments will be required to maintain accurate records of the number of recycled-content paper bags purchased and sold for a minimum of three years.  Violation of the carryout bag waste reduction ordinance would be an infraction, subject to fine, as defined by the administrative penalties ordinance.

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What grocery stores and retail establishments subject to the ordinance need to know:

Applies to all grocery stores and retail establishments. Does not apply to public eating establishments (stand-alone restaurants, delis, etc.) and nonprofit charitable reusers.

Prohibits all single-use plastic carryout (point-of-sale or checkout) bags.

Requires a minimum 10¢ charge on all compliant recycled paper bags.

Charge must be displayed separately on customer receipt.

Stores to keep the charge.

What shoppers need to know:

Beginning March 21, 2014, single-use plastic bags will no longer be available at all grocery and retail stores in Sonoma County.

Stores must charge a minimum of 10¢ for each paper bag.

The Waste Reduction Program for Carryout Bags Ordinance is intended to reduce litter, keep plastic bags out of local waterways, and encourage the use of reusable bags.

Ordinance language:

Administrative penalties ordinance language:

About the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency:

The Agency, formed in 1992, is the joint powers authority of Cotati, Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Windsor and the unincorporated County. Its mission is diversion (as required by state law AB939) of household hazardous waste, composting and wood waste, as well as customer education and planning. Funding for its programs is derived from a surcharge on garbage delivered to county refuse disposal sites. Visit the Agency’s website

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