California becomes first in nation to ban the bag

In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 270, the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The state’s new plastic bag ban allows local ordinances already on the books (like those in Napa County) to remain in effect. The state legislation takes effect July 1, 2015, at large groceries and variety stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, and will be extended to convenience stores and drugstores one year later. However, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a group of plastic bag manufacturers, is collecting signatures for a referendum.

This summer, the Napa City Council unanimously passed a single-use bag reduction ordinance that will be phased in over six months, going into full effect on January 1, 2015 (six months earlier than the state law). The City developed the ordinance with the input of residents and businesses and it received broad support from business, environmental, and community groups like the Napa Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Napa County, Napa Valley CanDo, and the California Grocers Association

The intent of the local ordinance is to significantly reduce the environmental and community impacts related to single-use plastic and paper carryout bags and promote a major shift toward the use of reusable bags. There are certain exemptions for specific bags (like produce bags, dry cleaning bags, and restaurant carryout bags). This ordinance will reduce litter and waste as well as contamination in recycling and composting programs—in turn reducing costs to taxpayers. In addition, the law will improve water quality in our rivers and streams, the Bay, and the ocean by reducing plastic bag pollution. 

In addition to the City of Napa’s ordinance, St. Helena and Calistoga have also passed similar ordinances, as have more than 100 other California cities and counties. St. Helena’s ordinance includes an exception for high-quality branded bags offered at many downtown boutiques.

To head off any confusion about the differences between state and local laws governing single-use bags, Sustainable Napa County is planning an outreach campaign to merchants and residents, and the City of Napa’s website will be updated with current information.

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