Berkeley has tightened its grip on the use of plastic bags. The city council passed an ordinance to close loopholes in state and county laws, which are allowing millions of bags into landfills and the greater environment. State and county laws ban flimsy plastic film carryout bags from a variety of stores while allowing thicker plastic bags. Berkeley banned the thicker plastic bags Tuesday that are provided by supermarkets, and among other places, convenience food stores. The new law goes into effect Jan. 1.
Berkeley Vice Mayor Kate Harrison, who authored the new ordinance, said while the thicker plastic bags are meant for reuse, they are being thrown away. Berkeley will also start charging $.10 for each bag that grocery store customers use to carry produce to the checkout stand. The charge applies to compostable and non-compostable versions. Harrison’s office said the compostable versions are not composted but sent to a landfill.
Berkeley’s tighter grip applies to supermarkets, convenience food stores, foodmarts and other places greater than 2,500 square feet that sell food items. It also applies to retail stores not already regulated by the state. California regulates retail stores with a pharmacy that have at least 10,000 square feet of retail space and pay sales or use taxes. Those stores are prohibited from providing flimsy plastic film carryout bags. Berkeley’s new law will also apply to any event requiring a street permit and city and city-sponsored events. In addition, restaurant patrons must pay $.10 for each plastic carryout bag they take.