Bag Legislation – Mid-Summer 2013

As summer is in full swing across the county, so are efforts of communities on how to handle the single-use plastic shopping bags.

Across California bag bans and taxes continue to pile up following another failed attempt at a state-wide ban in the California state legislature, with Los Angeles drawing the biggest headlines. The second largest U.S. city, with a population of 3.9 million, will bar single-use thin film bags as of January 1, 2014 and charge shoppers 10 cents for paper bags. The ban will kick off applying only to large grocery stores but will include smaller retailers as well, starting in June 2014.

Unincorporated Los Angeles County and a long list of municipalities within the county already had a bag bans of their own.

A bag ban for Sonoma County, California, is still in the works after a 4-1 vote in favor of a ban on plastic bags and a 10-cent fee for paper in June. The measure still needs unanimous support from all 10 members of the county’s waste management agency board, which is expected to vote in August.

Not to be outdone by the West Coast, New York City Councilman Brad Lander has revived attempts to ban plastic bags in the largest U.S. city. So far, however, there has been no action from the New York City Council since Lander’s measure was introduced in June.

But upstate, in Tompkins County, N.Y. a July 1 draft ordinance banning plastics bags from all retailers is under consideration. The proposed law would go into effect January 1, 2014 for any retailer over 5,000 square feet and January 1, 2015 for all other retailers.

Debate also continues to rage in Baltimore, Md., Councilman Brandon Scott introduced a bill June 10 that would require all stores city-wide to charge shoppers 10 cents per bag, down from his originally intended 25 cents, with stores keeping 2 cents per bag and the rest going to the city’s parks and recreation coffers. Even with support from Councilman James Kraft and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore’s bag ban effort is apparently being stymied. A hearing on the bill scheduled for July 2 was cancelled without explanation. The Maryland Retailers Association, Maryland Food Dealers Council, and Baltimore City Food Policy Advisory Committee have all come out against the bill.

Nearby, in Montgomery County, Md., officials are considering making changes to its bag fees, which went into effect January 1, 2012. A new proposal would limit the bag tax to only retailers who gross more than 2 percent of their sales from food and exempt bags for take-out food.