County board approves plastic bag ban; ordinance goes into effect March 21
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Plastic bags won’t completely disappear from Sonoma County, but the use of them will be dramatically reduced as a result of the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency voting unanimously on Feb. 20 to adopt an ordinance to reduce carryout bag waste throughout the county.

The agency  is a joint powers authority composed of the cities of Cotati, Rohnert Park, Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Sonoma; the Town of Windsor; and the County of Sonoma.

 The ordinance is effective on March 21, and retailers are encouraged to phase out their existing stock of plastic carryout bags as soon as possible, but enforcement will not begin until Sept. 1.  The ordinance will be effective countywide unless a member jurisdiction formally opts out of the ordinance.

Rohnert Park unanimously voted to join this effort at its city council meeting in January, while Cotati joined the cause in September of 2013.

This carryout bag waste reduction ordinance prohibits retail establishments (excluding public eating establishments and nonprofit charitable re-users, as defined by the ordinance) from providing customers with plastic carryout bags at the point of sale or other departure point.  

Bags exempt from this ordinance include plastic bags without handles to transport produce, bulk food or meat from a produce, bulk food or meat department within a store to the point of sale; bags used to hold prescription medication dispensed from a pharmacy; or bags used to segregate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other food or merchandise when placed together in a reusable or recycled paper bag.  

Paper bags made of at least 40 percent post consumer recycled content may be provided to customers for a minimum charge of 10 cents per bag.  

Reusable bags, as defined by the ordinance, may also be provided to customers.

Retail establishments will be required to maintain accurate records of the number of recycled-content paper bags purchased and sold for a minimum of three years.  

Violation of the carryout bag waste reduction ordinance would be an infraction, subject to fine, as defined by the administrative penalties ordinance.

For more information, go to www.recyclenow.org.

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