Carryout Bags Brief

Local Carryout Bag Regulation

With over 100 local jurisdictions regulating carryout bags and more on the way it is important that these ordinances maximize environmental gain while minimizing business impact. Over time a specific model regulation has been developed which accomplishes both. If a local jurisdiction is to regulate carryout bags CGA and the grocery industry they follow this proven model.

The intent of any carryout bag regulation must be to encourage reusable bag use. Simply switching consumers between single-use bag types does not achieve environmental gain and is very costly for grocers. This is why it is critical any ordinance must regulate all types of single-use carryout bags including plastic, paper and biodegradable.

Nearly all local ordinances have banned the use of single-use plastic bags and mandated a minimum charge to the customer of 10 cents per single-use paper bags. This type of regulation is called the ban/charge model. Experience has shown that under this type of regulation consumers overwhelmingly choose to reusable bags. The County of Los Angeles and City of San Jose have reported a 90% of consumers either use a reusable bag or use no bag at all for smaller purchases.

A critical component for grocers is to ensure that at least retailers selling similar product types are equally regulated. In the case of the grocery industry, both chain pharmacies and convenience stores sell similar products in that they also offer various food products, beverages, home goods and personal care items. To only regulate one type of similar retailer, like based on size or gross sales, would favor one retailer over another and create a competitive disadvantage. It should be noted that many local ordinances cover all retailer and are not just specified to food retailers.

Consistency is also critical to a successful carryout bag ordinance. Local governments which have regulated as a region or mirror other successful local regulations will further reduce the impact to retailers. In cases when an individual store is competing with a store located across a jurisdictional line or for companies which operate in multiple jurisdictions the consistency is key. The consistency across jurisdictions is also important for consumers since it will reduce confusion when shopping in one city versus another.

CGA believes it is up to each local jurisdiction to decide if a carryout bag ordinance is right for them, we also believe it important the ordinance must eliminate unnecessary burdens on grocers. The only way to achieve this is to regulate all carryout bag types, regulate all similar retailers, and create consistency with other local jurisdictions.

If you would like to discuss this CGA policy further, contact Tim James.