Who’s policing the bag legislation?

We now know that bag legislation is everywhere.  As more bag legislation becomes effective, how will municipalities police the industry?  We know that California has a “bag monster”…do municipalities actually have “bag police”?

Well not exactly!  As of today, you will not find carry out bag inspectors combing retailers with test equipment to validate the compliance of the carry out bags you provide.  Let’s look at some of the ways municipalities are tracking their bag legislation.

  1. Municipality Web Sites.  Some municipalities provide links on their websites for public citizens to report retailers that appear to be in violation of local bag legislation.  They also provide hotlines for citizens to call.
  2. Other City Departments.  Some municipalities have city department employees enter the premises of the retailer as part of their regular inspection function.  If they are aware of a violation, they will also report this information to the appropriate department.
  3. Bag Compliance Reports.  Many municipalities require retailers to submit quarterly carry out bag reports.  Retailers could be asked to provide copies of their purchases orders to substantiate their carry out bags do meet the bag legislation requirements.

Finally, Los Angeles County and the City of San Francisco have introduced the possibility of having retailers and manufactures provide third party test results to demonstrate the carry out bag definition performance requirements have been met.  Currently, third party test results are not included in the ordinance.

A retailer still has many choices on how your customer will carry out your product.  Our retail packaging specialists can help you navigate bag legislation in the municipalities you sell into and select the best packaging for your stores.  We hope that you will contact us by phone at 888-429-5673 or via email at baglaws@swalter.com.

What is going to happen to the California Statewide Legislation for Single-Use Bags?

I’m sure many of you remember the School House Rock’s production of How a Bill Becomes a Law! It was cute, catchy and an easy way for us to be engaged in government class.

Now you can apply that catchy tune to the ups and downs of the statewide legislation banning single-use bags in California. The idea of single-use bag ban has been circulating in California for several years. Most recently, California State Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who represents California’s 41st Assembly district, reintroduced the idea in AB 298 in early 2011. The bill has had several readings and been through several committees in the California Senate in the last 18 months. However, again, the journey of statewide single-use bag legislation has come to an end…or at least a pause!

On August 6, 2012, California AB 298 was referred to the Appropriations Committee’s suspense file. The bill was referred to the suspense file because it exceeded the $50,000 threshold for the committee and needed further review. On August 16, 2012, the committee deemed the bill too costly and was put on hold under submission. Submission is when the chair of the legislative committee won’t allow the bill to come to a full committee vote. In this case, AB 298 was deemed too costly.

Where does that leave AB 298? California legislators work on a 2 year cycle for all legislative processes. California’s 2 year term ended on August 31, 2012. Therefore, AB 298 is now dead. However, the ideas and concepts of AB 298 can be reintroduced again starting December 3, 2012. Assemblywoman Brownley will not be leading the charge, however. Brownley’s 2 year term limit is now completing.

Now that California’s statewide uniform policy to deal with plastic pollution has again been derailed, many California municipalities will resume work on introducing their own laws. So keep your eyes on the horizon and tune into future blogs to help you navigate bag legislation around the United States and Canada. We hope that you will contact us by phone at 888-429-5673 or via email at baglaws@swalter.com if you need further assistance.

Defining the Carryout Bag

How do municipalities define an acceptable carryout bag?  Well, it isn’t by what it’s made from…paper, plastic or cloth!

With all the single-use bag legislation popping up, it’s enough to make a retailer want to pull out their hair.  All you want to do is give your customer a convenient way to protect and transport their new purchase while advertising your brand.  How do you know what type of bag to supply your customer?  Each municipality with single-use bag legislation offers their own definition of a reusable bag, single-use carryout bag and recyclable paper bag.  Let’s break down some of the commonalities of these bag definitions.

Reusable Bag.  The reusable carryout bag has a few key attributes that usually show up in municipal definitions.  These of course, may differ from municipality to municipality.


  • A bag with handles
  • Specifically designed and manufactured for reuse
  • Material:  cloth, other washable fabric or plastic at least 2.25 mil thick.
  • Minimum life time capacity of 125 or more uses.

Here are the specifications that define the minimum life requirement:

  • Carry 22 or more pounds over a distance of at least 175 feet
  • Minimum volume capacity of at least 15 liters
  • Shall not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts
  • Machine washable or is made from material that can be cleaned or disinfected.

Recyclable Paper Bag.  Here are the key requirements that show up in municipal definitions.

  • 100% recyclable
  • 40% minimum Post-Consumer Recycled Material (PCW)
  • No old growth fiber
  • Is accepted for recycling in curbside programs in that municipality

Single-Use Bag.  A bag, other than a reusable bag or recycled bag, provided at the checkout stand, cash register, point of sale or point of departure for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of an establishment.

Single-use bags are the focus of legislation.  However, as a retailer you still have many choices on how your customer will carry out your product.  Whether the mode of transportation is plastic, paper, cloth, or some other durable material, WE ARE HERE TO HELP.  Our retail packaging specialists can help you navigate these definitions in the municipalities you sell into and select the best packaging for your stores.  We hope that you will contact us by phone at 888-429-5673 or via email at baglaws@swalter.com.

Hawaii To Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags by 2015

It’s official; Hawaii has won the race in becoming the first state to entirely ban single-use plastic bags. It comes as no surprise, as Kauai and Maui counties had already implemented bans and organized rallies marched to push for a statewide prohibition. Not to mention, Hawaii is the only US state encompassed by water, making the possibility of marine pollution more of a concern.

According to MSNBC.com, Hawaii County will cease non-biodegradable plastic bag distribution as of January 17, 2013, while the statewide proclamation begins July 1, 2015. That gives retailers 3 years to make the switch. Furthermore, paper bags distributed in stores must be at least 40 percent recycled.

Initially, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle was hesitant to comply, when considering the economic impact on businesses. However, given the industry had three years to adapt to the ruling, he went forward with the “environmentally friendly bill”, stating, “This is groundbreaking. Hawaii has become the only state in the United States where every county has plastic bag legislation.”

In the meantime, retailers are encouraged to use their remaining plastic bags in stock, while raising awareness to buyers on the future of reusable bags at checkout.

Recent polls indicated that nearly 85 percent of participants supported the environmental move. Advocates for the prohibition hope that this will influence other states to push legislation and decrease distribution of single-use plastic bags in the nation.