Ban Plastic Bags


  1. City of Davis Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance
  2. Proposed DRAFT Davis Carryout Bag Ordinance
  3. Other Local Efforts to Reduce Single-Use Carryout Bags in Davis
  4. Local impact of plastic bags after February 2012 high winds
  5. Media

plastic bags on fence.jpgPicture taken February 23, 2012 just outside of the Yolo County landfill after a windstorm blew litter from the landfill face into the surrounding areas. Among the many things proposed to be banned in Davis, a ban on Plastic Bags has been discussed in the late 2000s and early 2010s. City Council passed the [WWW]Single-Use-Carryout-Bags-Ordinance on November 12, 2013.

— As of July 2 2013, the city council directed staff to rework the proposal for a vote in August. The paper bag reporting requirement mentioned below was to be removed, and the number and types of businesses exempted from the ban would be greatly reduced. There was no motion or vote, just direction to staff. So based on council discussion (video of council proceedings is available on the city web site): the current status is that the ban of most carryout plastic bags is likely to be expanded to nearly all businesses, paper bag use will be allowed, and a fee will be required for paper bags. Exemptions will be included for bags used for certain food items, etc. —

The banning of plastic bags is a very controversial subject. San Francisco has banned plastic bags for most supermarkets and pharmacies. San Jose, Alameda County, Los Angeles(the city), Unincorporated Los Angeles County, and unincorporated Santa Clara County have also banned plastic bags. As of March, 2012, 42 different public agencies in California have passed ordinances restricting the distribution of single-use carryout bags. On May 22, 2012, Hawaii became the first state in the country to ban plastic bags after all four counties in Hawaii decided to ban plastic bags ([WWW]article).

There are many reasons for plastic bag bans. One major concern is that plastic bags litter cities and create a mess to clean up. Another concern is that animals can ingest plastic bags or suffocate due to plastic bags. Plastic bag litter cleanup is costly and the cost is ultimately passed onto taxpayers.

Supermarkets and other stores generally are neutral toward or supportive of plastic bag bans. Plastic bags are currently being given away for free by stores. If plastic bags are banned, stores can sell reusable bags and earn a profit this way. The stores also save money by not having to give away free plastic bags. Increased use of reusable bags also means that stores will no longer be losing as much money by giving out paper bags. Giving away plastic and paper bags for free increases prices for all customers.

The multi-billion dollar plastic bag industry is vehemently opposed to plastic bag bans. Plastic bags are made mostly from foreign oil. Oil companies also stand to lose from a plastic bag ban. Big Oil is very powerful and will no doubt spend money to oppose any ban on plastic bags.

From experiences in San Francisco, San Jose, and Alameda County the impact to consumers will be minimal. Paper bags are still available. Reusable bags are readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Once people become used to carrying around reusable bags, a plastic bag ban is no big deal. Plastic bag bans can be good for the environment and ultimately will reduce costs for stores since they will no longer have to pay for plastic bags to give away for free. The cost savings from eliminating plastic bags will save stores money and ultimately can lead to lower prices.

The ultimate losers of a plastic bag ban are the plastic bag industry and oil companies.

City of Davis Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance

Starting July 1, 2014:

More information about the [WWW]Single-use Carryout Bag Ordinance is found on

Proposed DRAFT Davis Carryout Bag Ordinance

(NOTE: This is NOT the ordinance that teh City ultimately voted to enact. Thsi section refers only to the draft ordiance proposed by teh City's Natural Resources Commission)
more plastic.jpgPicture taken February 23, 2012 just outside of the Yolo County landfill after a windstorm. The litter is more than just plastic carryout bags—there was also paper bags, garbage bags, candy wrappers and anything light weight and aerodynamic. At the request of the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), and at the urging of the community, the City is looking into an ordinance limiting the distribution of single-use carryout bags. The goal of the ordinance is to reduce the distribution of single‐use carryout bags and encourage the switch to reusable carryout bags.

The [WWW]current draft of the City's Carryout Bag Ordinance would only apply to grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores and large drug stores in Davis. The ordinance, as currently drafted, would eliminate the distribution of single-use plastic carryout bags at these stores. A 10 cent per bag charge would be applied to all carryout paper bags distributed at the point of sale at affected stores to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags. However, these paper bags must be recyclable and contain 40% post-consumer content as is the case with all similar municipal ordinances. The 10 cent charge is the estimated cost of recovery incurred by stores for distribution of the recyclable large sized paper bags and is also the most common fee imposed by other municipalities with such ordinances. The stores keep the 10 cent fee. Reusable bags would be required to have a charge, to prevent retailers from simply handing out thicker plastic carry out bags for free. The proposed ordinance would only restrict carryout bags provided at the point of sale, it does not include meat and produce bags or pharmacy bags. Restaurants and food vendors are also exempt.

The draft ordinance contained a mandate for retailers to track and report the use of paper bags. Some business owners considered this provision complicated and unnecessarily cumbersome. Others stated during public comment at meetings that they are required to itemize all things purchased by customers, bags included, so very little extra work would be required. Such clauses are not included in all similar ordinances, such as one recently passed in [WWW]San Luis Obispo County, which does not require reporting for paper bags. However, such a clause does allow the City of Davis to verify how effective the ordinance is in reducing single-use carryout bags usage and verify if a store is non-compliant (handing out paper bags for free). Here is the relevant portion of the draft (03/2012) proposal:

"32.05.03 Recycled Paper Bag Cost Pass-Through.
On and after January 1, 2013, except as provided in 32.05.04 an Applicable Store may only provide a Recycled Paper Bag to a customer if it collects a Paper Bag Cost Pass-Through from the customer for each Recycled Paper Bag provided.

There is also concern that the provision "at no cost to the City" will result in a fee being assessed to retailers for staff costs, much as local businesses pay to have their annual fire inspections.

There is a clause in the draft ordinance that restricts the distribution of single-use plastic carryout bags at City facilities and parks. This would include the Farmers Market, along with any event held at a City park or building, such as bridal fairs or Celebrate Davis. There is an exemption clause however, to allow for distributing plastic baggies to pick up dog poop at the dog park and other such circumstances.

[WWW]More information about the City's proposed Carryout Bag Ordinance.
The NRC reviewed the draft ordinance at their [WWW]March 26, 2012 meeting and voted 4-2 to accept the draft ordinance for staff to begin the CEQA environmental review process.
[WWW]February 2012 Staff Report to the NRC regarding a proposed Carryout Bag Ordinance.

plastic on landfill fence.jpgWhat looks like a wall at the top of the hill is actually a fence at the landfill covered in windblown plastic. Picture taken February 23, 2012.

The following implementation schedule was proposed for 2012:

The ordinance was originally proposed by the City's NRC Zero Waste Subcommittee in November 2011. The NRC Subcommittee drafted an ordinance to cover all the major grocery, drug, and large chain stores in Davis (about 2 dozen total) while almost all of the small downtown business merchants would be exempt. The Subcommittee estimated that this would eliminate well over 90% of the estimated 3,500,000 to 4,000,000 larger size, single-use plastic bags distributed annually in Davis. Restrictions on the thinner handle-less plastic bags shoppers use for meats and produce within a store were not included in this ordinance for sanitary reasons and restaurants.

[WWW]November 2011 Staff Report and NRC Proposed Carryout Bag Ordinance

Other Local Efforts to Reduce Single-Use Carryout Bags in Davis

Local impact of plastic bags after February 2012 high winds

February 2012 brought high winds to Davis and a pair of articles at the end of the month, describing the impact of plastic bags in Davis.

An article by Alan Pryor in The Vanguard ("Wind Storm Litters Davis Countryside with Plastic Bags Right Before NRC Considers Single-Use Bag Ordinance") showed photos of thousands of plastic bags in the slough just to the south of the Yolo County Central Landfill. Pryor stated, "it was obvious they had been blown from the land fill over the retaining fence during the wind storm." He also noted that the plastic bags had traveled quite a bit: "Even worse, driving back to the freeway and West Sac along Co. Rd 105, I counted over 200 plastic bags in the weeds, trees, and barb wire fences along the roadways before even getting to the freeway. Some of these bags were over a mile away from the landfill."

The Davis Enterprise ran a similar article ("Davis residents help clean up plastic bags near landfill"), reporting on the experiences of Davis resident Cayce Wallace. Confirming the Vanguard story, the article reported: "The wind had blown plastic bags of all kinds off the landfill site and throughout the area, in some cases sending them more than two miles away to nearby farmland, and covering several spots where thousands of birds nested." According to Wallace, "There were a couple of great blue herons that were standing in the middle of the trash and egrets that were landing and then I went back and there were birds that had gotten caught up in the plastic. There was a kestrel and a cattle egret, they were picking at it, trying to get it off of them." Wallace says that she helped untangle the birds from the bags and then spent several weeks trying to clean up the bags, accompanied by several friends. According to Jacques DeBra, city of Davis public utilities manager, picking up all the garbage can be difficult, since new trash is brought in daily to the landfill, adding to the potential for non-compacted or uncovered trash to blow with the wind. In 2010, the landfill's staff estimated workers spent more than 1,815 hours picking up litter at the landfill, costing roughly $34,000.

Both articles are linked below.


plastic bag in tree.jpgPlastic bag caught in a tree. Picture taken March 30, 2012 in Davis near the Davis High School.

The Davis Enterprise

The Aggie

The People's Vanguard of Davis


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2013-06-12 03:09:27   Personally I love getting plastic bags. When I had an apartment I'd always get plastic bags after buying groceries. I find them useful to put trash and recycle instead of using large trash bags. It saves me money. Also when I'm at home in Davis I can use them to pick up poop for my dogs. It's a win/win situation in my book. —teamdarwin

2013-07-07 02:59:17   Yes the world owes me free plastic bags. —SarahMD

2013-07-07 03:01:42   And healthcare. —SarahMD

2014-01-25 15:50:59   I embrace the plastic bag for picking up the dog poo, too. Should this be on the dog page instead? BUT! Grocery Outlet's plastic bags are so flimsy (as are CVS, safeway, I can go on), they can't even reliably hold dog poo, much less my groceries. But like the professor says, I do feel that I can afford to buy some bags for this personal item, except, OMG- I have like thousands already stock-piled! I'm set for dog poo Armageddon. PLEASE Davis, get this ban going. —JaneBF

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