San Jose, Calif., has become the latest and the largest U.S. city to ban single-use plastic carryout bags in what could just be the beginning of a string of new plastic bag bans in California.
The plastic bag ban, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012, was approved 10-1 by the San Jose City Council on Dec. 14. The new law also requires all retailers in the city of nearly 900,000 people to charge at least 10 cents at checkout for paper bags, which must have at least 40 percent recycled content.
More plastic bag bans could be coming soon in other California cities. In the wake of the failure of the state to approve a ban on single-use plastic bags in the legislation session that ended in September, the California cities of Fremont, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and Long Beach, and Marin County and Santa Clara County are now considering legislation to ban plastic bags.
A plastic bag ban also has been proposed in the Arkansas state Legislature.
The San Jose ban is similar to the one passed Nov. 16 by Los Angeles County, which goes into effect July 1 for that county's unincorporated areas. But unlike the L.A. county ban which applies only to grocers and pharmacies, the San Jose ban applies to all retailers and there is no short-term exemption for smaller grocers and pharmacies.
However, the law does exempt restaurants and non-profit secondhand stores from the ban. It allows restaurants to give plastic bags to customers for takeout foods, and permits all stores to hand out plastic bags for pharmaceutical purchases.
There also is an exemption in both the San Jose and L.A. county bans for plastic bags that hold fruit, vegetables or raw meat.
It's unfortunate that the city council would take this approach, said Tim Shestek, senior director of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council in a statement issued by the Washington-based trade association. Instead of entertaining recycling partnerships and programs, the city council chose a policy that punishes consumers by raising grocery costs unnecessarily. We are growing weary of fees that are nothing more than stealth taxes on consumers.
ACC is weighing whether to file lawsuits to prevent the bans from going into effect.
The San Jose and L.A. County bans are the most stringent in California. The four other California cities with plastic bag bans San Francisco, Malibu, Palo Alto and Fairfax do not require retailers to charge customers for paper bags.
Fourteen U.S. communities, including San Jose and Los Angeles County, have now passed plastic bans. They include the counties of Kauai and Maui in Hawaii, whose bag bans went into effect Jan. 1.
Westport, Conn.; Edmonds, Wash.; and the Alaskan towns of Hooper Bay and Bethel have plastic bag bans. The Outer Banks, N.C., counties of Hyde, Dare and Currituck also have a ban on plastic bags, enacted as a single measure.
In October, Telluride, Colo., passed a plastic bag ban that goes into effect March 1 and also requires retailers to charge 10 cents for paper bags.
In addition, Washington, D.C., has had a 5-cent tax on plastic and paper bags at checkout since Jan. 1. A $1 fee on carryout plastic bags goes into effect Jan. 5 in Brownsville, Texas, the location of a major paper bag manufacturing plant.