Sacramento County bans plastic bags beginning July 1

Grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores will no longer be able to give out carryout plastic bags in unincorporated Sacramento County starting July 1.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of the ban, joining Sacramento and about 150 other communities in the state that have banned plastic bags that are not reusable. Supervisors said they wanted to end the use of such bags to protect the environment because they essentially last forever.

“This, to me, really is a no-brainer,” said Supervisor Patrick Kennedy. “It has the most benefit for the least inconvenience.”

Supervisor Phil Serna, who introduced the ordinance, said the bags have become ubiquitous and people will adapt to their demise by reusing bags.

Supervisor Susan Peters voted against the ordinance, saying she does not like plastic bags but considers the 10-cent charge imposed on paper bags “regressive.” The ordinance requires businesses to sell paper bags for that amount – a charge advocates say encourages people to switch to reusable bags.

Under the ordinance, grocery stores, drug stores larger than 10,000 square feet and retailers that sell groceries, such as Target and Walmart, will no longer be able to dispense single-use plastic bags.

The county law comes before California voters consider a referendum on a statewide ban in November. The plastic bag manufacturing industry gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot, which suspended the 2014 ban approved by state leaders.

The county and other local governments modeled their ordinances on the state law, so there will be less confusion if the state law is upheld by voters.

About a dozen people spoke to supervisors about the ordinance and all but one were in support. That included Tim James of the California Grocers Association, who said it will bring conformity to businesses that operate in Sacramento and the unincorporated county.

In response to Peters’ complaint that the 10-cent fee for paper bags will hurt the poor, James said he does not believe that has been the case in other communities with bag bans. He also noted that an exemption allows people who receive welfare to get paper bags for free.

He also said that for most grocers the cost of the bag exceeds the fee.

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste, which helped to get the state law passed, said the fee is intended to discourage use of paper bags. He said when San Francisco passed the state’s first ban on plastic bags almost a decade ago, use of paper bags went up dramatically. So when Los Angeles County passed its ban, supervisors decided on the 10-cent levy.

Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris, who spoke in favor of the ordinance, said the city expected a lot of confusion from consumers and business owners when the ban passed but that has not been the case.

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