Alameda County Reusable Bag Ordinance
The Alameda County Waste Management Authority has adopted a Reusable Bag Ordinance to promote the use of reusable bags in place of single-use plastic and paper carryout bags.
- Beginning on January 1, 2013, stores in Alameda County that sell packaged foods and/or alcohol– including most grocery stores, minimarts, convenience stores, liquor stores, and pharmacies no longer provided customers with single-use plastic bags at checkout.
- Bags made of recycled paper or reusable bags may be made available for a minimum price of 10 cents per bag.
- Protective bags for meat and produce will still be allowed.
- Consumers may bring any type of bags from home they wish – and are strongly encouraged to do so!
Benefits and Impacts
- The Reusable Bag Ordinance will save valuable natural resources, reduce litter, and save our cities money by reducing litter cleanup costs.
- One reusable bag can replace 600 single-use bags over its lifetime.
- Plastic bags are one of the most common litter items found in our creeks, storm drains and streets.
- Storm drain cleanup costs Alameda County cities approximately $24 million every year. Plastic bags are one of the most prevalent items found in storm drains.
- In adopting this ordinance, Alameda County joins several of California’s largest cities, including San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, that no longer allow the distribution of single-use bags.
Plastic Bag and Litter Facts
- An estimated 764 million single-use plastic bags are distributed in Alameda County annually, in addition to more than 100 million paper bags.
- Roughly 10,000 tons of plastic bags find their way to Alameda County’s landfills every year.
- On 2011 California Coastal Cleanup Day, more than 1.3 million bags (both plastic and paper) were collected from our creeks and coasts, comprising 8.26 percent of litter collected.
- In 2008 – the most recent year for which local data is available – plastic bags comprised nearly 1 out of 10 (9.6%) of the litter items collected.
More information can be found at www.ReusableBagsAC.org
Why Bring Your Own Bag?
Start a habit you'll be proud to flaunt: remember your own bags every time you go to the store. It's one simple way to go green in your daily life. And when people see you're making the right choice, they're likely to do it too.
Since 2008, over 6,000 shoppers have signed Castro Valley Sanitary District’s “Bring Your Own Bag” (BYOB) guest book and pledged to help the environment by bringing their own tote and/or produce bag every time they go to the grocery store. As a result, we estimate that disposable bag use has been reduced by over 284,000 bags per week! Keep up the good work, and keep using those reusable bags!
Remember Your Resuable Bags
- Put your coupons and shopping list in your bag.
- List "Bags" as Item #1 on the shopping list to remind you to bring them.
- Keep bags by the door or on the doorknob.
- Purchase a few compact reusable bags that you can keep with you in a purse, jacket pocket, or backpack, or attach to your keychain.
Other Types of Reusable Bags
Produce Bags- If you prefer to use produce bags for vegetables and fruit, purchase or use mesh laundry or vented cotton bags. Small zippered or drawstring bags work well, and are machine-washable.
You can reduce your use by not using produce bags at all. Bananas come pre-packaged in their own natural wrapper. A bag is not needed for a single onion. Celery often comes with a twist-tie holding the whole stalk together!
Snack & Sandwich Bags– Are you using handfuls of plastic zippered bags every day packing lunches and snacks? Reduce your use by purchasing, making, and/or using reusable sandwich and snack bags. There are a number of bag options available today: zippered, folded, tied, etc. and endless patterns, colors, and sizes!
Party Favor & Treat Bags – Instead of buying single-use Mylar or cellophane bags for your next party or baked good give-away, consider buying or making party or treat bags that are reusable. Plain bags that can be decorated or personalized makes for a fun party activity.
- Gift Bags – Many reusable bags are the same price as single-use gift bags with handles. Give an extra gift to that someone special and make the wrapper reusable.
Tips for Everyone
Keep bags organized by use and size: grocery shopping bags separate from bags used for the gym, to carry soccer uniforms, or books.
Regularly wash bags
Separate raw foods (poultry, meat & fish in a separate bag)
If your bag pops a seam, repair it! As an example, sew a handle back on.
If your bag has been well loved and is no longer useful as a bag, consider other repurpose options first, and then donate the bag with your household goods. Even if the bag is damaged, there are uses for scrap fabric.
Use bags to transport food donations and donate to the local food bank. Castro Valley Library has a food bank container in the front entry.
Tips for Parents
Ask the kids to remind you to bring your bags as part of earning their allowance.
Decorate bags so that everyone in the family has personalized bags (Dad, Mom, Auntie, etc.).
Make a healthy lifestyle and balanced nutrition fun by decorating bags so that categories of food have personalized bags (Grains, Veggies, Fruit, Protein, etc.).
Tips for Dog owners
Attach a bundled reusable bag to your dog leash for use.
Use junk mail, newspaper, or old grocery store advertisements to pick up after your dog & keep the neighborhood clean.
Tips for Cyclists
- Attach a bundled reusable bag to your bike for use.
Tips for Drivers
- Put reusable bags back into the car after emptying them.
- Keep bags in the car and at work.
- Leave bags in the driver’s side pocket of the car.
Tips for the Office
- Keep reusable bags at your desk.
- Bring a bundled bag or two in your suitcase, work bag, or backpack.
Some paper & plastic statistics:
- Each year the United States consumes 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees1and 12 million barrels of oil.2
- The pulp and paper industry is the 2nd largest industrial user of energy in the U.S.3
- More than 46,000 pieces of plastic contaminate each square mile of our oceans.4
- Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement.5
- Only 1% of plastic bags are recycled annually.6
1 - "Paper or Plastic?, Delicious Living Magazine, March 2002.
2 - Reusable Bags Tackle Plastic Bag Mess, Organic Trade Association.
3 - "Paper Cuts: Recovering the Paper Landscape", Abromovitz & Mattoon, Worldwatch Institute, Washington DC, 1999.
4 - Keep the Sea Plastic Free, Bin It, Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage
5 - Turtles Don't Shop, Earth Resource Foundation.
6 - Plastic Bags: A Necessary Eyesore?, Worldwatch Institute.
Other Reuse Items