Sacramento Celebrates New Year with Bag Ban, Recommends Reusable Shopping Bags

Sacramento eases the transition from single use plastic bags with website connecting retailers with reusable grocery bags and information on the bag ban.

On January 1, 2016, the city of Sacramento, California,joins dozens of other cities nationwide that have banned the use of single-use, disposable grocery bags and encourage the use of reusable shopping bags. In October, the City Council unanimously approved the Reusable Bag Ordinance Chapter 5.154, which prohibits the use of disposable plastic grocery bags for certain retail stores within the city. The city says that about 400 grocers and convenience stores will be affected.

Unlike many other cities, where retailers fought plastic bag bans, the retailers in Sacramento have not raised any issue with the new city ordinance. In fact, says one city spokesperson, response to the ban has been mostly positive, and many grocers are happy to stop spending money on the throwaway bags.

Part of the reason for the difference may be that Sacramento city officials have worked hard to make the transition a smooth one. Among other things, the city has set up a Bring Your Own Sac website to help explain the changes to retailers and consumers, and to connect store owners with resources and suppliers of reusable shopping bags and tote bags.

“The way Sacramento is handling the transition to reusable shopping bags could be a model for other cities,” said the owner of a local business specializing in shopping bags and reusable tote bags. “The city has provided an entire tool kit for retailers that includes everything from employee training materials to pop-up signs for point of sale to explain it to customers.”

The specifications of the new city ordinance overcome many of the standard objections to laws that ban the use of disposable plastic bags. It phases out the use of flimsy plastic grocery bags, and allows retailers to sell paper grocery bags and reusable shopping bags at the register. Official materials handed out by the city even encourage retailers to order fabric tote bags and designer shopping bags to increase visibility for their stores, and provides a list of vendors that provide reusable shopping bags that meet the new standards.

Shoppers will not be required to purchase bags from the store, however. Customers will also be encouraged to bring their own reusable shopping bags from home and save the 10-cent fee for store bags.

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