In California, local governments in Santa Monica and Marin County have voted to ban single-use plastic carryout bags. This brings the number of areas in the United States with plastic bag bans to 18, and the number of bans enacted in January to 3. Both passed their bans, which cover both petroleum-based and bio-based plastic bags, on January 25.
In addition, South Padre Island, Texas, passed a plastic bag ban Jan. 19, and San Jose, Calif., passed a plastic bag ban in December – both of which go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
The Marin County and Santa Monica bans are similar to the one enacted November 16 by Los Angeles County, which goes into effect July 1 for large retailers and Jan. 1, 2012, for smaller stores in the unincorporated areas of that county because it bars all retail establishments from providing lightweight, single-use plastic carryout bags to customers. The Marin County ban applies to supermarkets, grocery stores, delis, convenience stores, drugstores, retailers with $2 million or more in sales, and stores with at least 10,000 square feet that have a pharmacy.
The ban for unincorporated areas of Marin County is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012, and requires stores charge 5 cents for each paper bag handed out. The county had delayed its scheduled vote for three weeks after a threatened lawsuit from the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition.
The Santa Monica ban further requires grocery stores and pharmacies – but not other retailers – charge customers at least 10 cents for standard-sized paper bags, which must be made of 100 percent recycled material and have a minimum of 40 percent recycled content. The stores will be able to keep the entire fee.
The Los Angeles County ban is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2011, for grocery stores with $2 million or more in sales and retail stores with 10,000 square feet or more that have pharmacies. The ban goes into effect at liquor stores, food marts, and convenience stores Jan. 1, 2012.
The San Jose ban requires all retailers in the city of nearly 900,000 people to charge at least 10 cents at checkout for paper carryout bags, which must have at least 40 percent recycled content. The San Jose paper bag fee will increase from 10 cents to 25 cents in 2014.
Meanwhile, six towns in Marin County – San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley, Tiburon, Sausalito, and San Anselmo – are working together to develop an ordinance to ban plastic bags and plastic polystyrene takeout containers. In addition, the California cities of Fremont, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Trent Hills, and Long Beach and Santa Clara County are also considering legislation to ban plastic bags. Plastic bag bans have also been proposed in the states of Arkansas, Oregon, and Vermont.
Besides Marin County and Santa Monica, San Francisco, Malibu, Palo Alto, Fairfax, Los Angeles County, and San Jose have enacted bag bans in California. Westport, Conn.; Edmonds, Wash.; the Alaska towns of Hooper Bay and Bethel; and the counties of Kauai and Maui in Hawaii also have plastic bag bans. The Outer Banks, N.C., counties of Hyde, Dare, and Currituck also have a ban on plastic bags, enacted as a single measure for those three counties.
In October, Telluride, Colo., passed a plastic bag ban that goes into effect March 1 and also requires retailers to charge 10 cents for paper bags. Washington, D.C., has had a 5-cent tax on plastic and paper bags at checkout since Jan. 1, 2010.