CARRYOUT BAGS ORDINANCE

To address the growing problem of carryout bag waste, on February 19, 2014 the ten jurisdictions in Sonoma County passed Ordinance No. 2014-2 Establishing a Waste Reduction Program for Carryout Bags (PDF: 33 kB) and a related administrative penalties ordinance. (PDF: 39 kB). Just in Sonoma County, it is estimated that 232 million plastic bags and 46 million paper bags are used each year.

Bags badge v2

Encourage customers to bag groceries at checkout, keeping bags inside the cart

  • Customers using reusable bags should clean them in between uses
  • Cloth bags are best since they can be washed in a washing machine
Carryout bags at cash register

Download resources

The following resources are provided in English and Spanish language. Click on the image to download the .pdf

About the carryout bags ordinance

What you need to know:

  • Applies to all grocery stores and retail establishments. Does not apply to public eating establishments (stand-alone restaurants, delis, etc.) and nonprofit charitable reusers.
  • Prohibits all single-use plastic carryout bags (point-of-sale or checkout).
  • Requires a minimum 10¢ charge on all compliant recycled paper bags.
  • Charge must be displayed separately on customer receipt.
  • Stores to keep the charge.

What types of businesses does the ordinance apply to?

The ordinance applies to all commercial establishments that sell perishable or nonperishable goods including, but not limited to clothing, food, and personal items directly to the customer.

Where does the ordinance NOT apply?

Retail establishments do not include public eating establishments (standalone restaurants, delis, takeout establishments, etc.) or nonprofit charitable reusers. Single-use carryout bags do not include bags without handles provided to the customer for the following uses:

  • To transport produce, bulk food or meat from a produce, bulk food or meat department within a store to the point of sale.
  • To hold prescription medication dispensed from a pharmacy.
  • To segregate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other food or merchandise when placed together in a reusable bag or recycled paper bag.

Schedule of the ordinance approval process:

  • January 15, 2014 – Certification of Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) (PDF: 16.97 MB) and Proposed Ordinance First Reading
  • February 19, 2014 – Ordinance Second Reading, Adoption
  • March 21, 2014 – Legally effective date of the ordinance (30 days after the Second Reading and Adoption)
  • September 1, 2014 – Effective date as written in the ordinance. (PDF: 33 kB) Ordinance Enforcement Begins.

EBT / WIC / SNAP Customers:

  • The Sonoma County Carryout Bags Ordinance requires retailers to charge all customers for carryout bags including EBT/WIC/SNAP customers. When financial assistance and WID offices reopen safely (in regard to Covid-19), our agency intends to provide additional reusable bags to be distributed to qualifying customers at these locations. In the meantime, Zero Waste Sonoma encourages all shoppers to procure and utilize reusable bags, available at most thrift stores and retailers for a minimal cost, to reduce waste and avoid the carryout bag fee.

What types of bags can businesses use?

Paper checkout bags are bags that contains no old growth fiber and a minimum of forty percent (40%) post-consumer recycled material; are one hundred percent (100%) recyclable; and have printed in a highly visible manner on the outside of the bags the words "Reusable" and "Recyclable," the name and locationof the manufacturer, and the percentage of post-consumer recycled content.Reusable checkout bags are either a bag made of cloth or other machine washable fabric that has handles, or a durable plastic bag with handles that is at least 2.25 mil thick designed and manufactured to withstand repeated uses over a period of time made from a material that can be cleaned and disinfected shall not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts.

Are businesses required to charge?

Businesses are required to implement a minimum 10¢ charge on all compliant recycled paper bags. The charge must be listed as a single line item on the customer's receipt

How will the bag charge be monitored?

Every retail establishment shall keep a monthly report of the total number of recycled paper bags purchased and the total number sold for a minimum period of three (3) years from the date of purchase and sale.

How can customers avoid the charge?

Customers can avoid a charge for recycled paper bags by bringing their own bag or refusing a paper bag.

Where does the bag charge go?

Stores keep the entire charge in order to help offset the cost of compliant bags.

What happens to businesses that do not comply?

The Zero Waste Sonoma will focus primarily on education and helping businesses comply. The Executive Director or his or her designee, shall have primary responsibility for enforcement of this ordinance. Compliance assistance is available at no charge by contacting us at zerowastesonoma@sonoma-county.org or (707) 565-3375.

Where to buy compliant bags:

Suppliers of Recycled Paper Checkout Bags (PDF: 209 kB)
Suppliers of Reusable Checkout Bags
(PDF: 138 kB)