California outlaws most single-use carryout bags

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Under new legislation the California Legislature passed that is expected to be signed by the governor on Sept. 20, thin plastic carryout bags appear headed for oblivion.

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2015 or July 1, 2016, depending on the type of store.

“Full-line, self-service retail stores” that sell “a line of dry groceries, canned goods or nonfood items, and some perishable items” and have gross annual retail sales of at least $2 million will be required to comply with the law starting July 1, 2015. So will stores with 10,000 square feet of retail space that also have pharmacy licenses and generate local sales or use taxes under the Bradley-Burns Uniform Local Sales and Use Tax law.

Other stores that sell retail food goods for consumption off the premises and hold either Type 20 or Type 21 licenses issued by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and stores with such a liquor license that sell a “limited line of goods, generally including milk, bread, soda and snack foods,” on the premises will have until July 1, 2016, to comply.

In summary, the law requires stores to cease providing single-use, carryout bags to customers, except for recycled paper bags or compostable bags for which customers must pay at least 10 cents for each bag. But the compostable bag exception is available only where certain other criteria are met, including an enabling vote of the local governing authority and the availability of curbside collection of foodwaste for composting. Also, stores may not require customers to use such single-use bags — customers may use reusable bags instead.

All money collected from single-use bags is kept by the stores but may be used only for certain purposes, including the costs of complying with this legislation, providing the bags, or educating and encouraging the public to use reusable bags.

The law is intended to outlaw single-use, carryout bags, whether they be made of plastic, paper or other material “that is not a recycled paper bag or a reusable grocer bag that meets the requirements” of a specific section of the new law. That section requires that reusable grocery bags sold by covered stores be manufactured by a certified reusable grocery bag producer. Among other requirements, such bags must be cleanable and disinfectable, be at least 15 liters in capacity and have a handle designed to be used at least 125 times.

Not all single-use bags are prohibited. Besides compostable bags and bags made of recycled paper, bags a pharmacy provides to a customer purchasing a prescription medication and nonhandled bags used to protect a purchased item from damaging or contaminating other purchased items when placed in a carryout bag, are not covered, nor are bags used for unwrapped food items or bags over articles of clothing on a hanger.

The law is to be enforced by cities and counties with civil penalties of $1,000 per day for the first offense up to $5,000 per day for third and subsequent offenses.

Stores on the Hill that may possibly be affected by this new law include Fairway Foods, Village Market, Skye Island Natural Foods, Idyllwild Pharmacy, Mountain Top Liquors, Idyllwild Shell, Pine Cove Market and the market at Thousand Trails. But when the new law will apply to each of them or other stores — or even if it will apply to them at all — will depend upon such factors as the store’s annual sales, square footage and liquor licenses, if any.

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