Information for Shoppers

Since 2013, grocery, drug and liquor stores in Alameda County have not been allowed to provide single-use plastic carryout bags at checkout. Building on the success of reducing bags at point of sale with the original law, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority expanded the law to include all types of retail stores and restaurants.

As of May 1, 2017, all retail stores in Alameda County can only distribute compliant reusable bags or bags made of recycled content paper.

  • Affected stores must charge a minimum of $0.10 per bag for each paper bags or reusable bags.
  • Customers may bring or use any type of bag to a store for their purchases, and are encouraged to do so.  Customers can also choose not to use a bag.
  • The ordinance does not regulate use of single-use bags used to protect and transport produce, bulk food, meat, hot/prepared foods, or prescription medications from within a store to the checkout or cash register.
  • An item may be placed in a protective bag at check-out to ensure the safety of the item (e.g. a wine bottle sleeve), or change out the packaging for reuse (e.g. berries from the baskets to paper bags).

Beginning November 1, 2017 the law expands to include restaurants and other public eating establishments.  Unlike the retail stores, eating establishments do not need to charge for recycled paper bags.


Why do we have a Reusable Bag Ordinance?

Plastic bags are one of the most common litter items found in our waterways. Plastic pollution is a growing threat to oceans and marine life. Plastic bags often take hundreds of years to break down or decompose, causing a cumulative litter problem. Paper bags are not without their own problems — the paper bag manufacturing process is very resource-intensive.

We estimate that nearly 764 million single-use plastic bags are distributed in Alameda County annually, in addition to more than 100 million paper bags. Roughly 10,000 tons of plastic bags find their way to Alameda County’s landfills every year. Additionally, plastic bags cause processing equipment problems at recycling facilities.

Using reusable bags helps reduce litter and waste, protects creeks and the bay, and conserves natural resources.


Tips to Remember Your Reusable Bag

  • Put coupons in your bag and keep it by the door.
  • Hang a few reusable bags on the coat rack or door knob.
  • Keep reusable bags in the back seat or trunk of your car.
  • Keep compact reusable bags in a purse, jacket pocket, messenger bag, diaper bag or backpack.


Clean your own reusable bags

It's a good idea to regularly clean your reusable bags. Below are some common-sense tips on how to keep your reusable bags clean and safe.

  • Regularly clean your bags. Most fabric bags can be washed in the washing machine. For bags made from plastic material, soak in a basin filled with soapy water and either the juice of half a lemon or about a quarter cup of vinegar.
  • Air out bags air so moisture evaporates.
  • Designate specific bags for meats and fish.

Please see "Practical Tips for the Use and Care of Reusable Grocery Shopping Bags" from the California Department of Public Health.


Make your own reusable bags

You can make a reusable bag in 10 minutes using just an old t-shirt and a pair of scissors! See these simple instructions.