COVID-19 Information for Retailers and Restaurants

Due to COVID-19, the state Reusable Bag Law was temporarily suspended for 60 days spanning May and June 2020. During the suspension, customers were not permitted to bring their personal reusable bags into businesses and, because of this, businesses were allowed the option of not charging for bags. Some businesses stopped charging and others businesses continued charging during the suspension.

After the suspension ended (expired 06/21/2020), all grocery and affected food stores in California (SB 270) and all grocery and retail businesses in Alameda County (ACWMA 2012-02) are required to charge customers at least $0.10 per bag and eating establishments and delivery services in Alameda County (ACWMA 2016-02) are required to charge customers at least $0.10 per reusable plastic bag. Retailers who temporarily waived required bag charges must reinstate the charges and may allow customers to use their personal reusable bags while adhering to safety protocols.  

We understand that stores and eating establishments have been under enormous pressure to address the ever-changing requirements to protect employee and public health. Thank you for your efforts.

 


 

Should my business be charging for bags?

Yes, retail stores and eating establishments should be charging for compliant bags.  There was a temporary suspension of bag charges in May and June due to a Governor’s Executive Order which expired at the end of June 2020. Stores are now required by both State Law SB 270 and the Alameda County Reusable Bag Law to charge for and distribute compliant bags.

 

If stores and restaurants are legally required to charge for and distribute compliant bags, why are some still not doing so?

There are a variety of reasons why some businesses may not be compliant with the law.  Many businesses are simply not aware that stores and eating establishments are required to resume charging for compliant bags. Some businesses may still not have adequate inventory of compliant bags, and some may have to follow a corporate decision to not accept or charge for reusable bags. All stores must comply with the Alameda County Reusable Bag law requirements.

 

My store stocked up on non-compliant bags during the early days of Shelter in Place due to lack of availability of bags, can I still distribute them?

No.  Businesses should be ordering and distributing compliant bags. If you purchased or were supplied with non-compliant bags you cannot distribute them to customers, but you may find an alternate use for them in your business (such as lining waste baskets) or you may donate them to charitable reuse organizations such as food banks which are in need of bags for food distribution to community members without enough to eat. Contact information for food banks can be found here.     

 

Can my store accept reusable bags from consumers?

Yes! Consumers are eager to bring their own bags to the store and the Alameda County Shelter in Place Order allows customers to bring in their reusable bags if they do not require handling by employees. Details relating to the acceptance of reusable bags in stores can be found in the County Health Officer Order (Appendix A, p. 9). Berkeley's Public Health Division has its own Health Officer Order (Appendix B, pg. 10) that has the same language as Alameda County’s Order.

 

Is it safe for my store to accept reusable bags in?

Many studies and health experts have provided documentation regarding the safety of reusable bags and foodware items relating to COVID-19 concerns. Over 115 health experts from 18 countries, including virologists, epidemiologists, emergency room doctors, and specialists in public health and food packaging safety, signed onto a statement addressing the safety of reusable bags and containers during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information is available here for review.

We understand safety is a top concern for businesses seeking to protect their employees and customers. The Centers for Disease Control report that COVID-19 is not shown to be spread via shared surfaces. The use of disposable options have not been shown to be a safer option than reusables while the environmental impacts of disposable options are well documented. 

Please refer to the following resources on the safety of reusables and best practices for their use:

 

What if I have questions about the law not answered here?

If you have questions about the law, we'd like to help you understand the changes and offer assistance. Please complete our online contact form, or email us at bags@stopwaste.org.

 

What happens to stores not complying with the law?

We encourage businesses to comply with the reusable bag law as the environment has suffered from increased usage of single use plastic during the pandemic.

Businesses that have fallen out of compliance may use this time to acquire compliant bags and review charging and itemizing procedures with employees. Businesses covered by the reusable bag law will receive 30 days notice prior to enforcement resuming. Businesses can find resources for compliance on our pages for Retail and Eating Establishments or by contacting us at bags@stopwaste.org.