California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Plastic Carryout Bags

Single-Use Carryout Bag Ban (SB 270) Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About Stores and Charges for Grocery Bags

Does my retail store meet the definition of “Store” according to the new law?
The definition of “Store” may not precisely describe your type of business or store inventory.

CalRecycle does not have enforcement authority over the provisions in SB 270 (Public Resources Code sections 42280-42288); and is thus unable to provide interpretations or advice concerning the definitions or requirements in the statute. Please consult your attorney, the local governmental entity (city or county) where the reusable grocery bags are sold, or contact the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at (916) 322-3360 for further assistance.

How much will it cost to purchase a grocery bag?
Stores are required to charge at least 10 cents for each recycled paper bag or reusable grocery bag sold to a customer at the point of sale. Reusable bags sold today may be made of canvas, hemp, or various types of plastic materials. Prices for these bags vary. There is no charge if you bring your own bag. Some stores will provide a credit (usually about 5 cents) toward your purchase if you use your own bag.

What types of stores are affected by the bag ban?

  • Grocery Stores: Full-line, self-service retail stores with gross annual sales of at least $2 million that sell a line of dry groceries, canned goods, or nonfood items, and some perishable items.
  • Large Retail Stores with a Pharmacy: Stores that have at least 10,000 square feet of retail space and a pharmacy and that generate sales or use tax.
  • Convenience Stores, Food Marts, or Liquor Stores: Stores engaged in the retail sale of a limited line of goods, generally including milk, bread, soda, and snack foods, and that hold a Type 20 or Type 21 license issued by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
  • Volunteer Stores: Retail establishments not included in this list that voluntarily agree to comply with the requirements of the statute.

If I have a payment card or voucher issued by the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children or an electronic benefit transfer card issued pursuant to Section 10072 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, do I have to pay for a bag?
No. Stores are required to provide a reusable grocery bag or a recycled paper bag free of charge to customers using one of the above payment methods.

Is the new fee on reusable grocery bags subject to sales and use tax?
For questions regarding tax issues related to the new bag fee and reusable grocery bags, please contact the Board of Equalization Taxpayer Information Section at (800) 400-7115.

Are there single-use bags NOT covered by the new law?
Yes. Bags used by pharmacies for prescriptions; bags used to protect a purchased item from damage or contamination, such as bags used for fruits and vegetables; and bags used to contain unwrapped food items like bulk foods are some examples of single-use bags not covered by the new law. In addition, bags without handles that are designed to be placed over articles of clothing on a hanger are not covered under the new law.

What is Proposition 65, and how will it affect implementation of SB 270?
Proposition 65 failed. It proposed to redirect money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through the mandated sale of carryout bags. It would have required stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund to support specified environmental projects. For more information regarding Proposition 65, please review the Official California Voter Information Guide.

Will there be a grace period before stores start charging for recycled paper bags and reusable grocery bags?
When Governor Brown signed SB 270 in 2014, the effective dates of the bill’s statutory requirements would have allowed a grace period prior to the onset of the law’s ban on distribution of single-use plastic bags and requirement for stores to charge customers at the point of sale for recycled paper bags and reusable grocery bags. However, when the referendum qualified for the November 2016 ballot, implementation of SB 270 was suspended. Proposition 67 passed and the law is in effect as originally written.

Questions About Certification of Reusable Grocery Bags

What is CalRecycle’s role in implementing the new law?
CalRecycle is required to publish on its website a list of producers that have submitted the required certification for each type of their reusable grocery bags sold in the state. The law also requires, among other things, that CalRecycle establish an administrative certification fee schedule to cover the Department’s costs.

Will there be a rulemaking process?
Yes. CalRecycle is taking steps to initiate the regulatory process to develop a certification fee schedule for bag producers, as required by the law. To be apprised of these proceedings and to learn about future opportunities to participate and register public comments, please sign up for the Reusable Grocery Bag Certification (SB 270) Listserv or send inquiries to SB270@calrecycle.ca.gov.

Who certifies that reusable bags meet the standards specified in the law?
Reusable grocery bag producers are required to provide CalRecycle with third-party certification by an independent, accredited ISO/IEC 17025 laboratory, demonstrating their bags meet the new requirements.

How will the posting of the certifications work?
Producers are required to submit proof of third-party certification via CalRecycle’s online database, the Reusable Grocery Bag Reporting System (RGBRS). CalRecycle will post a continuously updated list of Certified Reusable Bag Producers as proofs of certification and supporting documents are received. Retailers subject to the ban are responsible for ensuring the bags they sell comply with the certification requirements.

How frequently must bags be certified?
The law requires bag producers to certify reusable grocery bags on a biennial basis (every other year).

Do all reusable bags have to be certified?
The statute has certification requirements (PRC 42281, 42281.5 and 42282) for different types of reusable grocery bags.

Who handles complaints and enforcement of the new bag ban law?
A city, county, or the state may impose civil liability on a person or entity that knowingly violates this law. Consumers who wish to report a violation of the law may contact the office of their local city or county or the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, a person may object to the certification of a reusable grocery bag producer by filing an action for review of that certification in the superior court of a county that has jurisdiction over the reusable grocery bag producer, as allowed by PRC Section 42282.

Can CalRecycle tell me if my store is in compliance with SB 270?
While CalRecycle can provide general information regarding the provisions of SB 270, the Department is unable to provide legal advice or guidance to bag producers, stores, or the public. If program participants have questions regarding legal or compliance issues, they are encouraged to seek legal counsel.

How can I learn more about this law and the bag certification requirements?
More information is available at the following link: SB 270 (Padilla, Chapter 850, Statutes of 2014).

Where can I learn how cities and counties verify that reusable bags meet certification requirements?
Here are a few examples:

Questions About City/County Bag Ordinances

What if my city or county already has a bag ban in place?
The new law allows a city or county that has adopted a bag ordinance prior to September 1, 2014, to continue to enforce and implement that ordinance, but it pre-empts any amendments other than to increase the bag charge at regulated stores. Additional actions taken by a city or county (prior to January 1, 2015) that qualify an ordinance for preemption from the new state law are outlined in Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 42287.

  • CalRecycle is aware of these cities and counties that have already adopted bag ban ordinances. This list may not include every jurisdiction in the state that has adopted an ordinance; thus, it is advisable to check with your local city or county authority. Local jurisdictions may have different requirements in addition to the provisions included in the new state law.

The following list includes cities and counties with existing ordinances that were not adopted prior to the September 1, 2014, or January 1, 2015 deadlines:

  • American Canyon
  • Cathedral City
  • Corte Madera
  • Del Mar
  • Hermosa Beach
  • Mammoth Lakes*
  • Milpitas
  • Napa County
  • Sacramento City
  • Sacramento County
  • San Diego*
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Yountville
 

*Mammoth Lakes and San Diego have sunset clauses upon the passage of SB 270 (Proposition 67).

More Questions?

Contact SB270@calrecycle.ca.gov

Single-Use Carryout Bag Ban Home

Last updated: December 27, 2016
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Contacts: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Plastics/Contacts.htm