Bring Your Own Bag to the Store!
Carry Out Bag Ordinance
Do you operate a grocery store or retail establishment in Sonoma County? To address the growing problem of carryout bag waste, on February 19, 2014 the cities and the County members of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency passed Ordinance No. 2014-2 Establishing a Waste Reduction Program for Carryout Bags and a related administrative penalties ordinance. In Sonoma County alone, it is estimated that 232 million plastic bags and 46 million paper bags are used each year. The intent of the ordinance is to reduce solid waste and other environmental impacts related to the use of single-use carryout bags.
What You Need to Know
- Applies to all grocery stores and retail establishments. Does not apply to public eating establishments (stand-alone restaurants, delis, etc.) and nonprofit charitable reusers.
- Prohibits all single-use plastic carryout bags (point-of-sale or checkout).
- Requires a minimum 10¢ charge on all compliant recycled paper bags.
- Charge must be displayed separately on customer receipt.
- Stores to keep the charge.
Tips for remembering your bag when shopping
- Put your bags where you will use them, such as in the car, on the doorknob, in your purse or backpack.
- Is your bag in your cart or basket? As you enter a store make sure you have a bag. If you forgot, make the effort to go back and get it.
- Get bags that match your style. You’ll use your bags more if you enjoy them.
- Put your kids in charge of remembering.
What is the purpose of the Ordinance?
The intent of the ordinance is to reduce the solid waste and other environmental impacts related to the use of single-use carryout bags.
What types of businesses does the ordinance Apply to?
The ordinance applies to all commercial establishments that sell perishable or nonperishable goods including, but not limited to clothing, food, and personal items directly to the customer.
Where does the ordinance NOT apply?Retail establishments do not include public eating establishments (standalone restaurants, delis, takeout establishments, etc.) or nonprofit charitable reusers. Single-use carryout bags do not include bags without handles provided to the customer for the following uses:
- To transport produce, bulk food or meat from a produce, bulk food or meat department within a store to the point of sale.
- To hold prescription medication dispensed from a pharmacy.
- To segregate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other food or merchandise when placed together in a reusable bag or recycled paper bag.
What types of bags can businesses use?
- Paper checkout bags are bags that contains no old growth fiber and a minimum of forty percent (40%) post-consumer recycled material; are one hundred percent (100%) recyclable; and have printed in a highly visible manner on the outside of the bags the words "Reusable" and "Recyclable," the name and location of the manufacturer, and the percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
- Reusable checkout bags are either a bag made of cloth or other machine washable fabric that has handles, or a durable plastic bag with handles that is at least 2.25 mil thick designed and manufactured to withstand repeated uses over a period of time made from a material that can be cleaned and disinfected shall not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts.
Are businesses required to charge?
Businesses are required to implement a minimum 10¢ charge on all compliant recycled paper bags. The charge must be listed as a single line item on the customer's receipt.
How will the bag charge be monitored?
Every retail establishment shall keep a monthly report of the total number of recycled paper bags purchased and the total number sold for a minimum period of three (3) years from the date of purchase and sale.
How can customers avoid the charge?
Customers can avoid a charge for recycled paper bags by bringing their own bag or refusing a paper bag.
Where does the bag charge go?
Stores keep the entire charge in order to help offset the cost of compliant bags.
What happens to businesses that do not comply?
The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency primarily focuses on education and helping businesses comply. The Executive Director of the Agency, or his or her designee, shall have primary responsibility for enforcement of this ordinance. Compliance assistance is available at no charge by contacting us at or (707) 565-3375.
Interested in more information?
Please visit the Sonoma County's Waste Management website and Facebook page for more information about our efforts to address the growing problem of carryout bag waste:
You can now also follow Sonoma County Waste Management Agency on Twitter: