laco seal
Department of Public Works
Go to DPW home
Collage of various services by Public Works
AboutTheBag.com

Frequently Asked Questions

Ordinance Basics 

When does the ban begin?

July 1, 2011 - Supermarkets and Large Retail Stores with a Pharmacy
January 1, 2012 - Smaller Grocery Stores, Pharmacies, Convenience Stores and Food Marts
 

What stores must comply with the bag ban ordinance?

Retail establishments located within the unincorporated areas of L.A. County that fall into any of the following categories:

Supermarket - Full-line, self-service retail store with gross annual sales of two million dollars ($2,000,000), or more, that sells a line of dry grocery, canned goods, or nonfood items and some perishable items.

Large Retail Store with a Pharmacy - At least 10,000 square feet of retail space that generates sales or use tax pursuant to the Bradley-Burns Uniform Local Sales and Use Tax Law (Part 1.5 (commencing with Section 7200) of Division 2 of the Revenue and Taxation Code) and that has a pharmacy licensed pursuant to Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 4000) of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code.

Grocery store, Convenience store, Food mart, or Pharmacy 

Other Retail Store - Engaged in the sale of a limited line of goods that includes milk, bread, soda, and snack foods, including those stores with a Type 20 or 21 license issued by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.  


 

How can I determine if my store is affected by the ordinance?

The best way is to enter the store's address into this website, and look for “Unincorporated” in the bulleted list.   


Note: do not enter any directional prefixes to the street names (such as: N, North, S, South, etc.), or street identifiers (such as: Boulevard, Blvd., Avenue, Ave., Street, St., etc.)
 

How does my store comply with the Carryout Bag Ordinance?


  • Cease providing customers plastic carryout bags (produce bags or product bags are exempt).
  • Make available to customers recyclable paper carryout bags or reusable carryout bags.
  • Charge customers using recyclable paper carryout bags 10 cents per bag. (No store shall rebate or otherwise reimburse customers for any or all of the 10-cent charge required)
  • Provide at the point of sale, free of charge, either reusable bags or recyclable paper carryout bags or both, at your option, to any customer participating either in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or in the CalFresh/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Indicate the number of recyclable paper carryout bags provided and the total amount charged for the bags on customer receipts.
  • Complete and submit Bag Ordinance Store Quarterly Report no later than 30 days after the end of each quarter.

What information will be included in the Store Quarterly Report?


  • Total number of recyclable paper bags provided.
     (including those provided free of charge to EBT, WIC, and/or SNAP customers)
  • Total monies collected from the paper bag charge. (NOTE: Actual monies collected from the paper bag charge are to be retained by the store.)
  • Efforts to promote recycling of single use carryout bags, if any.
 

Bags 

Are biodegradable plastic bags allowed?

No. Plastic carryout bag means any bag made predominantly of plastic derived from either petroleum or a biologically-based source, such as corn or other plant sources. It includes compostable and biodegradable bags. 


Can biodegradable plastic bags at least 2.25 mils thick be considered "reusable"?

Yes, only as long as the minimum lifespan of the bags are 125 uses (as defined in the ordinance). 


Will there be a charge for small sized paper bags distributed at checkout, typically provided by small stores to their customers?

Yes. Any store that provides a recyclable paper carryout bag at checkout to a customer must charge the customer 10¢ for each bag provided to carry out their purchase. 


Which bags should I charge 10¢ for?

You must charge 10¢ for each paper bag provided to a customer for the purpose of carrying purchased goods away from your store. Carryout bags provided to WIC/SNAP customers are exempt from this charge. 


Are prescription bags subject to the 10-cent charge?

According to the California Pharmacy Board, pharmacies are required to keep medical information confidential. Since many pharmacies use opaque bags for this purpose, only carryout bags used for prescription drugs would be exempt from the County ordinance. Carryout bags customers obtain for other purchased items would still be affected. 


Is there a law that requires me to put alcoholic beverages into carryout bags?

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has released an Industry Advisory regarding this question. There is no California law that mandates a retailer provide a bag for purchased alcoholic beverages. There is also no law requiring retailers in unincorporated areas of the County to provide a bag for purchased alcoholic beverages, although nearby incorporated cities may have such a requirement. If a paper bag is provided, you must apply the 10¢ charge. 


What is the 10-cent charge used for?

All monies collected by a store under this Ordinance will be retained by the store and may be used for:

    1. Costs associated with compliance
    2. Actual costs of providing recyclable paper carryout bags
    3. Costs associated with a store's educational materials or education campaign encouraging the use of reusable bags, if any
 

Does the 10-cent charge per paper bag apply to everyone? Who is exempt?

All affected stores authorized to accept WIC or SNAP purchase payments must provide at the point of sale, free of charge, either reusable bags or recyclable paper carryout bags or both, at the store's option, to any customer participating either in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or in the CalFresh/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 


Is the 10-cent charge per paper bag taxable?

No, the State Board of Equalization indicates that the 10-cent charge on paper bags would not be subject to State sales tax.


Will other sections of my store that have their own checkout stand have to comply with the Ordinance?

Yes. 


Are reusable bags less than 15 L in volume capacity allowed to be given away for small stores that typically sell items smaller in size and quantity to individual customers?

No. Customers are to be reminded to bring back their reusable bags when shopping. If only a small number of items are being purchased or the items being purchased have handles, customers can easily carry away without a bag.  


How do I know if my reusable and paper carryout bags satisfy the Ordinance requirements?

Your carryout bags must meet the minimum requirements listed on the Ordinance. 



Enforcement 

Who is responsible for enforcement of the ordinance?

County Department of Public Works has primary responsibility for enforcement. The Departments of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures and Public Health may assist with this enforcement responsibility by entering the premises of a store as part of their regular inspection function, so as to monitor compliance by reporting any alleged violations.  


What are the penalties and fines for Ordinance violations?


  • Written warning notice.
  • Fine not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100.00) for the first violation after the written warning notice is given.
  • Fine not exceeding two hundred dollars ($200.00) for the second violation after the written warning.
  • Fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500.00) for the third and any subsequent violations after the written warning.
 

What happens to the money collected from violation fines?

Fines collected pursuant to this Chapter shall be deposited in the Solid Waste Management Fund of the Department of Public Works to assist the Department with its costs of implementing and enforcing the requirements of the ordinance. 


Can written warnings and fines be disputed or appealed?

A store operator who receives a written warning notice or fine may request an administrative review of the accuracy of the determination or the propriety of any fine issued, by filing a written notice of appeal with the Director of Public Works no later than 30 days after receipt of a written warning notice or fine, as applicable.


The notice of appeal must include all facts supporting the appeal and any statements and evidence, including copies of all written documentation and a list of any witnesses that the appellant wishes to be considered in connection with the appeal.


The appeal will be heard by a hearing officer designated by the Director of Public Works. The hearing officer will conduct a hearing concerning the appeal within 45 days from the date that the notice of appeal is filed, or on a later date if agreed upon by the appellant and the County, and will give the appellant 10 days prior written notice of the date of the hearing.


The hearing officer may sustain, rescind, or modify the written warning notice or fine, as applicable, by written decision. The hearing officer will have the power to waive any portion of the fine in a manner consistent with the decision. The decision of the hearing officer is final and effective on the date of service of the written decision, is not subject to further administrative review, and constitutes the final administrative decision.


 

The Community 

Why are single use plastic bags an issue?

Single use plastic bags present both an economic and an environmental burden on society. Litter cleanup of unincorporated areas costs County taxpayers over $20 million annually, of which plastic bags are a significant amount of the litter stream. If not collected, plastic litter often finds its way to the ocean where it can drift for years, or be mistakenly eaten by animals where the plastic will remain in the animal’s digestive tract for the rest of its life. Although there are some negative environmental impacts related to paper bags as well, recyclable paper bags are permitted so the stores may provide their customers with a convenient and inexpensive means to carry out the goods they purchased. The intent of the Plastic and Paper Carryout Bag Ordinance is to reduce the negative environmental impact of single use (disposable) plastic and paper carryout bags and encourage the use of reusable bags. Reusable bags last far longer and have far less impact on the environment than either plastic or paper single use bags. We continue to encourage stores to promote the use of reusable bags to their customers. To review the Staff Report submitted to the Board, click here


What are the environmental impacts of single use plastic bags?

Since single use plastic bags are lightweight, they easily become airborne. They tend to be blown around and caught in trees, bushes, and fences, as well as getting caught in storm drains which can cause flooding issues. Bags that are caught on land cause a significant eyesore but also cause harm to the plants that ensnare them as well as animals which may become tangled in the bags or mistaken them for food or nesting material. In the marine environment these bags remain in the water for many years absorbing toxins and slowly breaking into smaller pieces. Unfortunately, these bags look very similar to jellyfish and many turtles and whales mistakenly eat the bags which remain in the animal’s digestive tract for the rest of its life. For further details about the environmental impacts of plastic bags, click here


Have any cities in LA County banned plastic bags too?

Yes, see the table below. For more information, click here.

Calabasas

Adopted on February 9, 2011;
Effective July 1, 2011 at large stores and January 1, 2012 at small stores

Culver City

Adopted on May 28, 2013;
Effective December 28, 2013

Glendale

Adopted on January 22, 2013;
Effective July 1, 2013 at large stores and January 1, 2014 at small stores

Long Beach

Adopted on May 17, 2011;
Effective August 1, 2011 at large stores and January 1, 2012 at small stores

Los Angeles

Adopted on June 26, 2013;
Effective January 1, 2014 at large stores and July 1, 2014 at small stores

Malibu

Adopted on May 27, 2008;
Effective November 27, 2008 at grocery stores, food vendors, restaurants, and pharmacies
Effective May 27, 2009 at all remaining retail establishments, vendors, and non-profit vendors

Manhattan Beach

Adopted on July 15, 2008;
Effective January 14, 2012

Pasadena

Adopted on November 7, 2011;
Effective July 1, 2012 at large grocery stores and foodmarts
Effective December 31, 2012 at small grocers, food markets, liquor stores, convenience stores, farmers market, and pharmacies

Santa Monica

Adopted on February 8, 2011;
Effective March 9, 2011; Enforcement begins September 1, 2011

West Hollywood

Adopted on August 20, 2012;
Effective February 20, 2013 at large stores and August 20, 2013 at small stores

 

Can customers use their own carryout bag?

Yes.
 

What can customers use as a carryout bag?

Anything they can safely carry their groceries with, including: reusable bags, baskets, buckets, and boxes, for example.
 

What if customers don't want to buy/bring a reusable bag or purchase a paper bag?

If they can comfortably carry their paid purchases out by hand, that is one option; or their goods can be packaged back into the shopping cart or basket for transporting to their vehicle, where they can be unloaded.
 

Is there a place where low income people can buy discounted reusable bags?

Residents participating in WIC or SNAP are eligible to receive free bags sufficient to carry out their purchases from stores affected by the Ordinance (please see response to "Does the 10-cent charge per paper bag apply to everyone? Who is exempt?" above for more information). In addition, from time to time, Public Works distributes free reusable bags in limited quantities at various community events throughout the County.
 

Won't buying all these paper and reusable bags be a burden on my customers during these hard economic times?

Based on the Socio Economic Study [PDF, 271KB] done as a part of the Environmental Impact Report [PDF, 49MB], the estimated increase in overall cost due to this ordinance is $5.72 per capita annually. This includes stores switching from plastic bags to paper bags (the cost of "free bags" are normally hidden and passed on to consumers); customers buying more trash bin liners; and increased sales tax incurred from the new purchases. However, potential savings or added value to customers, in the form of reduced taxes for litter abatement, increased property values, and the value of other environmental benefits associated with the proposed ordinance were not calculated in this study.
 

Are reusable bags recyclable? Where can customers bring them to be recycled?

Depending on the material, it may be recyclable. Visit SmartBusiness Recycling for more information on recycling locations in the County.
 

Managed by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Environmental Programs Division
Toll Free Phone Number: 1(888) CLEAN LA
Clean LA Home| Clean LA FAQ| About Clean LA| Clean LA Site Index| Contact Clean LA