Information for Shoppers

Why does this law exist?

  • Using reusable bags helps reduce litter and waste, protects creeks and the bay, and conserves natural resources.
  • Roughly 10,000 tons of plastic bags find their way to Alameda County’s landfills every year.
  • Plastic bags often take hundreds of years to break down or decompose, causing a cumulative litter problem.
  • Plastic bags are one of the most common litter items found in our waterways, and have become a growing threat to oceans and marine life.
  • Studies show that it is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
  • Plastic bags cause processing equipment problems at recycling facilities.

Has the law been effective?

Yes, since the implementation of the Ordinance, data from stores across Alameda County shows:

  • Over 60% decline in the use of plastic bags. 
  • Over 100% increase in the number of shoppers bringing their own reusable bags, or not using a bag at all.

  1. 2020 data not included due to COVID restrictions on reusable bags and supply chain paper bag issues.

Additional information about the bag law:

Reusable Bag Tips

  • Purchase just a couple of items and forgot your bag? You can carry out your purchases without a 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.
  • Alameda County health code allows customer-provided reusables such as bags in retail and eating establishments.

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, a pair of scissors, and these simple instructions. No sewing!

Recycle your old reusable bags

Reusable bags sometimes wear out, but ChicoBag don’t want to see them in the landfill when they do. Send them your tired reusable bags, functional or not. We will distribute them to fixed and low income families ready to start a reusable bag habit, or recycle them into new, useful products through partnerships with artists, crafters and non-profit organizations. Mail your unwanted reusable bags to:

ChicoBag Company
c/o Zero Waste Program
747 Fortress Street
Chico, CA 95973


Information for Shoppers

At Stores:

  • If you need a bag for your purchases, each store-provided reusable plastic bag will cost shoppers at least 10 cents (some stores charge more).
  • Shoppers can avoid paying 10 cents for a paper or reusable bag (which can include thicker, more durable plastic bags) by bringing their own bags to the store.
  • Bags without handles for protection of goods (produce, bulk items, garment bags, etc) are not affected by the expanded law.

At Eating Establishments:

  • Eating establishments and delivery services can not distribute single-use plastic bags.
  • Paper bags can be given free.  
  • Thick, reusable plastic bags can be provided for a 10 cents charge (some may charge more).
  • Bags without handles for protection of goods (such as around containers of soup to prevent spilling) are allowed at no charge. 

Bring your own bag to all your favorite retail shops and eating establishments!

When did the law take effect?

Since 2013, grocery stores and certain other food retailers in Alameda County have not been allowed to provide single-use plastic carryout bags at checkout.  November 1, 2017, this ordinance expanded to include ALL retail stores, and on May 1, 2017 to all eating establishments in Alameda County.

What stores are affected?

As of May 1, 2017 - all retail stores in Alameda County are affected by the expanded law, including but not limited to:​

  • Drug stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Book stores
  • Beauty supply stores
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Gift shops
  • Department stores
  • Electronics stores
  • Art supply stores
  • Shoe stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Clothing stores
  • Music stores
  • Toy stores
  • Houseware stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Auto supply stores

Bags without handles that are used to sort or protect goods (like fresh produce, bulk items, or clothing in garment bags) are not affected by the law.

What about restaurants?

As of November 1, 2017, this law also applies to all eating establishments and food delivery sevices in Alameda County. The primary difference for restaurants is that they will be able to provide recycled content paper bags free of charge.

All eating establishments includes, but is not limited to:

  • Restaurants 
  • Cafes
  • Food Trucks
  • Coffee Shops
  • Bars
  • Bakeries
  • Cafeterias 
  • Delis
  • To-Go Vendors 
  • Delivery Services 
  • Food Ordering Platforms