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AboutTheBag.com

Background & FAQ

In November 2010, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance that prohibits the distribution of single use plastic carryout bags at certain stores in the County unincorporated area, and requires them to charge ten cents (10¢) for each paper bag provided to a customer.


Carryout Bags 

Why are single use plastic bags such a big deal?

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. At recycling facilities, plastic bags clog machinery which slows the recovery of other recyclables. Studies have also shown that a charge of 10¢ per paper bag would discourage customers from simply switching from one single use bag (plastic bags) to another (paper bags). Customers may bring their own reusable bags every time they shop to avoid paying 10¢ for a paper bag. In addition, these single use plastic and paper carryout bags were never “free”, but instead the costs were built into the price of commodities. 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.

To watch a video explaining the effects of plastic bags in the marine environment, click here.

Can I use my own carryout bag?

Yes

What can I use as a carryout bag?

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

Are the bags that my Pharmacist uses for my prescriptions subject to a 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 used for other purchased items would still be charged.

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

If you can comfortably carry your paid purchases out by hand, that is one option; or you can repackage your goods into a shopping cart or basket and unload them directly into your vehicle (and then return the cart or basket).

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?" below 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 me and my family 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 I 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.

What is the 10-cent charge used for?

All monies collected by a store from this Ordinance will be retained by the store and may be used for compliance with the Ordinance.

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.




Plastic Bag Bans 

Which stores are affected by the Ordinance?

Affected stores are those located in the unincorporated areas, which are depicted in color on the County Map, and which fall under the following categories:

  • Supermarkets
  • Grocery Stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Convenience Food Stores, Foodmarts, Liquor Stores
  • Other retail stores selling a limited line of goods including: milk, bread, soda, and snack foods

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

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