Ordinances banning single-use plastic grocery bags in Mendocino County and the city of Ukiah expanded this week to include all retailers—including general merchandise retailers and small grocery stores. Stores are prohibited from distributing plastic bags, but may sell reusable bags or offer paper bags for a small charge.
But the bigger picture is making consumers aware of the environmental damage the plastic bags cause, and to encourage them to bring their own reusable bags on any shopping trip, according to Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority General Manager Mike Sweeney.
"Unless the store is required to recover its cost of the paper bag, the incentive for the reusable bags is missing," Sweeney wrote in a Monday statement. "Then folks who bring their own bags would be forced to subsidize the free bags for those who don't, since the cost of paper bags is incorporated into the price of goods purchased."
The only group not included in the ordinances is restaurants—which were excluded due to a lawsuit filed by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition contending that the state restaurant code preempted any local action. However, Friday’s ruling by the State Appellate Court says the restaurant code relates to food, not plastic bags, which may open the way to include restaurants in future ordinances.
Mendocino County and the city of Ukiah join 88 other California communities taking responsible action to reduce plastic bag litter and pollution. Is your community on the list?