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Bag bans coming to San Mateo, Calif., and Barrington, R.I.

By: Mike Verespej

November 9, 2012

WASHINGTON (Nov. 9, 12:05 p.m. ET) — San Mateo County has become the eighth county in California to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in the unincorporated areas of their jurisdictions.

Starting April 22, retail stores in unincorporated areas of San Mateo County will no longer be permitted to distribute plastic bags and must charge 10 cents for paper and reusable bags with that fee escalating to 25 cents Jan. 1, 2015. The county board of supervisors adopted the ordinance Nov. 6.

Exempt from the San Mateo County ban are garment bags; bags without handles that are used to transport prepared food, produce, bulk food or meats; bags used to hold prescription medication dispensed from a pharmacy; and bags used 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.

In the Northeast, a ban on plastic bags in Barrington, R.I., will go into effect Jan. 1. That measure, passed last month, has exemptions for plastic bags used to transport fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, small hardware items, fresh, frozen or prepackaged foods including meats and fish, unwrapped prepared foods or bakery items and wrapped flowers and potted plants.

Barrington, with a population approaching 17,000, is the first community in Rhode Island to enact a plastic bag ban.

Boulder, Colo., is not banning plastic bags, but it has also approved a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper bag sat retail. But council must receive approve the legislation again at a Nov. 15 city council meeting because of changes made at the Nov. 1. council meeting.

Altogether, there are 84 U.S. communities with plastic bag bans, including 41 cities and eight counties in California that encompass more than 16 percent of the state’s population.

Plastic bag bans are in place in three of the 14 largest and five of the 29 largest cities in the United States: San Francisco, San Jose, Calif.; Austin, Texas, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

In addition, Los Angeles — the nation’s second-largest city with a population of 4 million — this summer set in motion a plan to ban single-use plastic bags.

More than half of the plastic bag bans in the United States—46—have been enacted this year. In addition, three communities—Aspen, Colo.; Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Md.—have fees on plastic carryout bags, with Boulder set to become the fourth.