Q: What does the Sacramento plastic bag ban do?
A: The new ordinance prevents grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores from offering customers single-use plastic bags at checkout. They can instead offer to pack goods in recycled paper bags or reusable bags, for which they are required to charge at least 10 cents apiece.
Q: When will the plastic bag ban go into effect?
A: Starting Jan. 1, stores will no longer be allowed to stock single-use plastic bags at checkout.
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Q: Why did Sacramento vote to ban plastic bags?
A: Mayor Kevin Johnson began to push the city to limit plastic bags after a statewide ban was challenged by a referendum, which put the state law on hold until after a vote in November 2016. Those who voted to support the plastic bag ordinance did so out of concern for the environmental toll plastic bags have taken on Sacramento and the world. A report prepared by Sacramento city staff lists the environmental harm caused by plastic bags, which wind up in landfills, rivers and oceans, caught on fences and trees and in bushes. The Ocean Conservancy reports that worldwide, pollution kills 1 million seabirds and 100,000 other animals every year. The report also points out that plastic bags are a petroleum product that contributes to the country’s dependence on foreign oil and accelerates climate change.
Q: Don’t people recycle plastic bags?
A: Not really. According to the report assembled by city staff, less than 5 percent of plastic bags in use end up being recycled. The city also reported that although bags are accepted as part of its curbside recycling program, they often clog the sorting machinery, forcing staff workers to shut down the process about six times per day to remove tangled bags.
Q: How many plastic bags are there?
A: California retailers distribute about 19 billion bags per year, or 522 per person. It’s estimated that 14 billion of those bags are thrown away every year.
Q: Do I get credit for bringing my own reusable bag to the store?
A: Many stores, including Whole Foods, offer shoppers a credit of at least 5 cents per reusable bag brought. But there is no condition in the city ordinance that requires retailers to do so.
Q: What about people who receive financial assistance?
A: The city ordinance will require stores to hand out recycled paper or reusable bags free of charge to customers in the California Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Q: Where else are plastic bags banned?
A: In California, 130 jurisdictions have adopted laws that prohibit single-use plastic bags. That means more than one-third of Californians live in places where plastic bag use is limited or banned. In the greater Sacramento area, Davis, Nevada City, Chico, Truckee and South Lake Tahoe also have prohibited grocery stores from handing out such bags.
Call The Bee’s Marissa Lang, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter at @Marissa_Jae.