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Published on March 06, 2017. Last modified on March 15, 2017
What does Monterey County’s Reusable Bag Ordinance do?
The ordinance does four key things to promote a consumer shift to reusable shopping bags. First, the Reusable Bag Ordinance prohibits free plastic (thin-film), single-use carryout bags at most retail stores Second, reusable bags and/or paper bags may still be provided only if the store charges a minimum of 10 cents per bag. Third, it describes what specific types of paper and reusable bags may be provided. Fourth, it lists other kinds of bags that are exempted (still allowed).(Click here to see the full ordinance)
When did the ordinance take effect and what area does it cover?
March 27, 2015 throughout all unincorporated areas of Monterey County.
Which stores are affected?
All types of stores are affected with two exceptions; restaurants and some specific non-profit charitable re-users.
What qualifies as a restaurant? Why are restaurants exempt?
Restaurants (i.e., “Public Eating Establishments”) are businesses that receive 90 percent or more of their revenue from the sale of prepared food. They are exempt. Restaurants account for only about 5% of plastic bags. Also take-out food is more prone to spillage and customers are less likely to bring reusable bags to a restaurant.
What about Farmer’s Markets, festivals and events?
Retailers at Farmers Markets, festivals and events in the unincorporated areas are included. Food vendors that get 90% or more of its revenue from prepared food are exempt.
What other kinds of plastic bags are still allowed?
The ordinance still allows free, smaller plastic bags needed to protect and separate items that might contaminate each other. For example free plastic bags are still allowed to separate items such as; produce, bulk foods, cooked foods, meat, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
Can customers bring their own plastic, paper and/or reusable bags?
Yes. Consumers are encouraged to bring any type of bag (including single-use plastic bags) to a store for their purchases. Customers are only charged for bags provided by the store at check-out.
What if customers don’t want to bring a reusable bag or purchase a paper/reusable bag?
Customers can carry their paid purchases out by hand, or put their goods back into a shopping cart or basket to transport to their vehicle to unload.
What about bag ordinances in the different cities and the new state law the passed last summer?
All cities except Sand City and Del Rey Oaks have passed similar ordinances. They take effect on different dates, but will all be in effect by summer of next year. The city of Salinas and the County have the exact same ordinances with the same implementation dates. The new state law does not apply if a local ordinance has already been passed. Therefore the state law will only apply in Sand City and Del Rey Oaks. The state law is currently under review.