San Mateo County Reusable Bag Ordinance Works

San Mateo County Reusable Bag Ordinance Works

San Mateo County, California, October 29, 2014 (PBBR) - On April 22, 2013, the County of San Mateo, California implemented a Reusable Bag Ordinance. Most jurisdictions in the county also adopted the ordinance. A year and a half later, surveys prove that the Ordinance has garnered dramatic results.

The San Mateo County Environmental Health staff released the results of several surveys. Retailers were surveyed prior to the implementation of the ordinance and again surveyed 9-13 months after the ordinance implementation.

Has the Reusable Bag Ordinance worked? Absolutely. There has been a huge increase in the amount of reusable bags used at retail establishments and a dramatic reduction in plastic bags in area waterways.

The current minimum charge for a reusable paper or plastic bag is ten cents. On January 1,  2015, that charge will increase to twenty-five cents. As I've said before, user pays! If a people can't change their plastic bag habits then they will need a lot of quarters.

Customer Data: Survey Results
Results of the surveys are shown below. Shoppers were observed near the entrances of retail stores, but were not contacted during the survey.
Shoppers Observed               822                                             1109
% Receiving Free
Plastic/Paper Bag                  76%                         26% (purchased allowable bag)
% Using Reusable Bag          13%                                              34%
% Using No Bag                     23%                                              53%
# Paper/Plastic Bag Seen   1226                               419 (allowable bags)
Retailers Data: Reporting
In accordance with San Mateo County’s Reusable Bag Ordinance, retailers must keep “complete and accurate records of the purchase and sale of any recycled paper bag or reusable bag by the retail establishment.” Six retailers with a total of 38 retail locations in San Mateo County were requested to provide data from their store locations. Most retailers sell paper bags as an allowable bag, while some stores carry 2.25 mil plastic bags designed for reuse. Of the retailers surveyed, most conducted outreach to customers with regards to the San Mateo County’s Reusable Bag Ordinance.
  • Number of Bags (Paper or Plastic) Shipped to Stores Prior to Ordinance Implementation:  63,379,478
  • Number of Allowable Bags Sold, Post Implementation:  10,211,088
The data shows that habits related to bag use are slowly beginning to change. There is a 162% increase of people bringing their own bags to the store since the ordinance was implemented. Before the ordinance, many shoppers often received a plastic bag for carrying purchases, with an option for a paper bag as well. There is a 66% decrease in people buying a bag that they would have normally received for free before. There was also a 130% increase in people refusing a bag altogether and hand-carrying their items. Orders for bags by retailers to supply their customers dropped approximately 84%.
Data Source: San Mateo County, California