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Sacramento County to consider banning plastic bags

The Bel Air grocery store in the Pocket sells its own reusable bags for 10 cents. As of Jan. 1, the city of Sacramento bans grocery stores, large pharmacies and convenience stores from offering single-use plastic bags at cash registers.
The Bel Air grocery store in the Pocket sells its own reusable bags for 10 cents. As of Jan. 1, the city of Sacramento bans grocery stores, large pharmacies and convenience stores from offering single-use plastic bags at cash registers. aseng@sacbee.com

Sacramento County plans to consider a ban on free plastic grocery checkout bags.

At the request of Supervisor Phil Serna, county staff will hold a workshop on the proposal on March 8 and consider an ordinance as early as March 22.

Nearly 150 communities in California, including Sacramento, have already adopted such restrictions.

The county proposal comes as a referendum on a statewide ban on plastic bags goes to voters in November. The plastic bag manufacturing industry gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

By qualifying the measure, opponents of the statewide ban were able to stop implementation of the ban that was supposed to start in July. The state Legislature approved the ban in 2014.

Sacramento and other local governments subsequently passed their own plastic bag bans. Citing figures from the California Grocers Association, Serna said 147 communities in the state have plastic bag bans.

Grocers in Sacramento offer paper bags for 10 cents or sell reusable bags for a higher price.

Serna said it’s unclear what effect, if any, the November statewide referendum would have on local ordinances if voters overturn the statewide bag ban. That is one of the questions he wants answered at the March workshop. The uncertainty at the state level is more reason for local communities to act on bans, he said.

Officials at the American Progressive Bag Alliance, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that qualified the referendum, were not available for comment early Wednesday evening.

Serna’s predecessor on the board, Roger Dickinson, failed to get any support from other supervisors when he proposed a plastic bag ban several years ago.

Serna said several things have changed since then. Most notably, the California Grocers Association is on the same page as environmentalists in their support for bag bans, Serna said.

Approving a bag ban in the county would help grocers because it would eliminate confusion from having communities like Sacramento with bans and unincorporated communities without them, Serna said.

Besides the environmental benefits of bag bans, the county has a financial interest in stopping the use of plastic bags, he said. The bags fill up the county’s landfills, and have to be cleaned from roadways and parkways, he said.

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