Ordinance History

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority adopted the initial Reusable Bag Ordinance in January 2012 to reduce the use of single-use carryout bags and promote the use of reusable bags. Similar ordinances have been passed in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles County, and other communities throughout California.

Plastic bags are one of the most common litter items found in our waterways, and plastic pollution is a growing threat to oceans and marine life. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down or decompose, causing a cumulative litter problem. Shopping with reusable bags helps reduce litter and waste, protects creeks and the bay, and conserves natural resources. 

The ordinance was designed with the following goals in mind:

  • Reduce litter in our local waterways;
  • Promote use of reusable bags to prevent waste;
  • Save cities money on litter and storm drain cleanup;
  • Decrease the number of bags going to landfill.

Initial Implementation

When the Ordinance took effect in January of 2012, affected stores became subject to the following four requirements:

  • Stop providing single use carryout bags
  • Stock compliant reusable and paper bags at checkout
  • Charge a minimum of 10 cents for compliant bags
  • Itemize 10 cent charge on receipts

The 1288 affected stores, primarily included:

  • Grocery stores
  • Drug stores
  • Liquor stores

Also included were stores in Alameda County that sell:

  • Milk, bread, soda AND snack foods (all four items)
  • AND/OR alcohol (Type 20 or 21 license) in Alameda County.

Effectiveness

Since the implementation of the Ordinance, survey data from 70 stores shows:

  • An 80% decline in the use of single use paper and plastic bags. 
  • A 200% increase in the number of shoppers bringing reusable bags, or not using a bag at all
  • 44% decrease in plastic bags found in County storm drains
  • Stores are participating with a compliance rate of 90+%

2017 Expansion

In October 2016, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority approved an expanded reusable bag ordinance for Alameda County. The expanded ordinance applies to all stores and restaurants in the county, and went into effect on May 1, 2017 for retail stores and will go into effect on November 1, 2017 for restaurants.

Stores that will be affected by the expansion include:

  • Retail stores that sell perishable or nonperishable goods including, but not limited to, clothing, food, and personal items
  • Restaurants and take-out food establishments, including food trucks and vendors who distribute food in bags

Timeline for expansion:

  • October 2016:  Ordinance adopted by WMA Board.
  • December 2016:  Deadline for cities to opt-out of expanded ordinance (existing ordinance will still apply).*
  • May 2017:  Ordinance effective for expanded retail stores.
  • November 2017:  Ordinance effective for all restaurants.

For additional details, please the Ordinance Overview page.

 

* (12/10/16) Update:  No cities chose to opt-out of the expanded ordinance.