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Bring your own bags

By Jeff Becerra

Alameda County’s Reusable Bag Ordinance takes effect January 1, 2013

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. -- When the Alameda County Waste Management Authority’s Reusable Bag Ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2013, grocery stores and many other retailers selling packaged foods and/or alcohol will stop distribution of single-use bags at checkout. Recycled-content paper or reusable bags may be provided, if the retailer charges a minimum price of 10 cents per bag. To avoid the bag charge, customers should take their own shopping bags.

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority adopted the Reusable Bag Ordinance in January of 2012 to further the agency’s long-term waste-reduction goals by helping to decrease the number of bags entering landfill. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down, causing a cumulative litter problem. The ordinance will also save cities money on litter and storm drain clean-up, which costs Alameda County jurisdictions approximately $24M every year.

On January 1, 2013, jurisdictions in Alameda County join the 51 other cities and counties in California, including San Mateo, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, working to reduce the number of single-use bags. All 14 cities and unincorporated Alameda County agreed to participate in the ordinance, increasing the number of jurisdictions with bag ordinances statewide by almost 30 percent.

“Plastic bags harm marine life, are difficult to recycle and are one of the most common litter items found in our creeks, storm drains and streets,” said Gary Wolff, P.E., Ph.D., Executive Director of StopWaste.Org. “By limiting the distribution of single-use bags and urging people to bring reusable bags, we expect to see far fewer plastic bags littering our cities in future years. One reusable bag can replace as many as 600 single-use bags over its lifetime.”

The Reusable Bag Ordinance affects most grocery stores, minimarts, convenience stores, pharmacies and other retailers that sell packaged foods and stores that sell alcohol in Alameda County. Stores are still permitted to provide free plastic bags to protect and transport produce, bulk food or meat from display area within a store to the checkout or cash register. Restaurants and take-out food establishments are exempt from the ordinance. WIC and food stamp customers are not subject to the bag charge.

To prepare, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority has been providing stores with resources and educational materials on the ordinance and conducting countywide outreach to help consumers and retailers prepare for the changes.

Here are tips shoppers can use to remember their own bags:

· Hang a few reusable bags on the coat rack or near the front door
· Keep a few reusable bags in your car
· Keep a reusable bag at your office or place of work
· Keep compact reusable bags in your purse, backpack or pocket

For more information, visit www.ReusableBagsAC.org.



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