by Michelle Millet
On November 12 of last year city council passed an ordinance that regulates the distribution of single-use bags by local businesses. The purpose of the ordinance is to reduce the distribution of carryout bags and promote the use of reusable bags.
The city has been conducting workshops for business owners to explain how the ordinance will affect them and to answer their questions regarding how the ordinance will be implemented and enforced.
When the ordinance goes into effect on July 1, businesses will no longer be allowed to distribute single-use carry out bags to customers at the point of sale. They may make paper bags, or other types of reusable bags, available for a 10 cent fee. This cost pass-through reimburses retailers for the costs of providing recycled paper carryout bags to their customers. All of the revenue from the cost pass-through remains with the store. The fee is also meant to encourage the use of reusable bags and discourage unnecessary distribution of bags.
Applicable businesses include all stores and restaurants located within the limits of the City of Davis that sell perishable or non-perishable goods. These include, but are not limited to, all grocery stores, convenience stores, minimarts, liquor stores, drug stores, restaurants and take-out food (i.e. fast food) establishments.
Non-profit thrift stores, including Goodwill, the SPCA Thrift Store, and All Things Right and Relevant, are not regulated by the ordinance and may distribute any bags they wish, without charging any fees.
The city’s website lays out the following options customers have when purchasing goods or food:
- bring your own bag (reusable cloth bag, paper bag, or plastic bag)
- purchase a paper bag for 10 cents
- purchase a reusable bag
- carry your items out of the store without a bag
The ordinance also places restrictions on the types of reusable bags stores are allowed to distribute.
Paper bags must contain a minimum of 40% post-consumer material. Smaller bags, such as those used for things like greeting cards, most contain at least 20% post-consumer material. Bags must be made of compostable materials and be a type that is accepted for curbside recycling in Davis.
Plastic bags that meet certain qualifications can also be distributed for a fee. To qualify they need to either be machine washable or easily cleaned, they may not contain lead, cadmium or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts. Plastic bags must be at least 2.25 mils (thousandths of an inch) thick, and have a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, which means they are capable of carrying a minimum of 22 pounds 125 times over a distance of at least 175 feet.
Merchants do not need to charge a fee for bags used to package loose bulk items or bags that are used to contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, or fish. Other exemptions include bags used to prevent damage like bags for greeting cards, dry cleaning, or newspaper. Pharmacy bags are not regulated nor are bags for restaurants leftovers. (Note, bags used to carry take-out food are not exempt).
The city’s website gives tips on how to remember to bring reusable bags when shopping:
- Write “BRING YOUR BAG” at the top of your shopping list.
- Purchase or make bags that you really enjoy using and those that instill pride.
- Have different bags, baskets and carts for different types of shopping … a knapsack by your bike or a compact pouch-type bag in your handbag or purse.
- After you unpack and wash your bags, remember to place them next to your house keys.
- Bags you can see are not easily forgotten.
- Forgot your bags in the car? It’s OK. Before you go to the check-out, go back to your car and get them. It will help to remember next time.
- Share a Bag! If you see that someone has forgotten a bag you can offer them one of yours.
It also gives the following instructions on how to care for reusable bags:
- Wash polypropylene, cloth or canvas bags after each use, or bleach bags weekly (follow tag instructions – most cloth bags can be washed in the washing machine and plastic bags should be wiped down).
- Label the bags (meat, produce, boxed items, etc.).
- Only use the bags to carry groceries.
- Double wrap meats in plastic bags before putting them in a reusable bag.
- Keep meat and produce separate.
- Don’t store perishables in the trunk of your car.
- Group similar foods together and use the same bags for the same food groups to eliminate cross contamination.
- Allow the bags to dry completely after washing before storing.
Again, this ordinance will go into effect on July 1, 2014