County announces ban on single-use plastic bags

Alameda County adopted a ban Wednesday that will prohibit stores, including supermarkets and pharmacies, from giving away single-use plastic bags.

By March 2 of this year, cities can choose to opt out of the new ordinance, which also requires that large businesses and multi-family properties recycle. The ban will go into effect in January next year.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council will consider a more comprehensive ordinance that would prohibit additional types of stores from giving out single-use plastic bags.

“We’ve gotten thousands of petitions and emails saying that Berkeley should do this,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

In Alameda County, retailers that do not sell packaged food — restaurants, take-out food establishments, retail stores and charitable thrift stores — will not have to comply. However, Worthington said he wants Berkeley’s ordinance to include establishments not covered by the county’s ban.

“I think (the county was) concerned with the cost of implementation and how many hours it would take their staff to go and monitor,” Worthington said. “But I think in Berkeley there won’t be as much cost. A lot (of businesses) will do it voluntarily, or else their customers will come and lobby them to do it.”

In the county, supermarkets and convenience stores will have to provide either recycled paper bags or reusable plastic bags for a minimum of 10 cents each. Approximately 1,900 retailers across the county’s 14 cities could be affected, according to Jeff Becerra, communications manager for StopWaste.org — a public agency that includes both the county’s Waste Management Authority and its Source Reduction and Recycling Board.

“The single-use bag ordinance will help reduce the number of bags going to landfill and decrease the problems caused by plastic bags at recycling processing centers and landfills,” according to a press release from the Waste Management Authority.

The plastic bag ban is intended to reduce environmentally-harmful trash in storm drains and creeks.

If a citywide ordinance is passed, Worthington said it will go into effect when the county ordinance does.

“I haven’t heard anyone object to (it). There’s a pretty decent chance that it will move forward.”

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