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.
Per Alameda County Public Health Department’s most recent Shelter in Place Order (20-14c, Appendix A), customers are now permitted to bring their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items from home if they do not require handling by employees. People can place them in carts and/or baskets, but they will need to bag their own groceries. Berkeley's Public Health Division has it's own Health Officer Order (Appendix B, pg. 10 ) that has the same language as Alameda County’s Order.
Stores and eating establishments have been under enormous pressure to address the ever-changing requirements to protect employee and public health; resuming the practice of accepting customers’ reusable bags may not occur immediately at all businesses.
Please review the following FAQ for more information regarding reusable bags:
1. Why are some stores allowing customers to use their reusable bags but others do not?
Stores are adapting to many changes in local and state regulations to protect employee and public health. The Alameda County Health Officer Order (Appendix A, p. 9) was revised to allow customers to bring in their reusable bags if they do not require handling by employees. Some stores may need more time to make changes in their policies and procedures, and some stores may not be aware of the change yet. Let stores know you would like to bring your own bag now that it’s allowed. Please be patient during this complicated time.
2. Can stores still charge me for a bag even though they won’t allow me to bring my own?
Yes, stores can charge for any bag they provide. However, some stores or employees may not be aware of the most recent change, and as a customer, you may ask them to allow you to use your own bag per the local Health Officer Order (Appendix A, pg. 9).
3. My local restaurant is giving out thin, single-use plastic bags. Can they do that?
Local and state bag laws do not allow single-use carryout bags to be provided by affected businesses throughout California. We recognize that many businesses are experiencing supply chain disruptions, and this has affected carryout bag inventory. Some businesses may have purchased single-use bags when paper and reusable bags were more challenging to stock early in the pandemic. We have temporarily suspended enforcement of the Reusable Bag Ordinance and are not penalizing businesses for use of non-compliant bags during this temporary suspension. Consider letting stores and restaurants know you would like them to stop distributing single-use bags, so they know their customers don’t want thin plastic bags.
4. How can I learn more about the safety of using reusable bags during COVID 19?
Some reliable sources of information about reusable bags, cups and other items include:
- Over 115 Health Experts Sign Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables During COVID-19
- Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables and COVID-19
- The Safety of Reuse During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Reusable Grocery Bags: A Smart Choice But Play It Safe
- Cleaning and Disinfecting Reusable Bags
- Shopping for Food During the Pandemic (includes translated materials in Español, 中文, 한국인, Tagalog, and Tiếng Việt)
- 10 Safe Shopping Tips