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Store Frequently Asked QuestionsCity Trash & Recycling

The Very Basics

For a nice overview, watch this Inside Santa Barbara newsmagazine piece explaining the "why" and "what" of the new rules, including comments from several retailers who have previously implemented bag ordinances (07:56)


Complying

What does my store need to do to comply with the Single-Use Bag Ordinance?

  1. Complete a Self-Certification Form stating whether you are a Tier 1, Tier 2, or exempt store.
  2. Cease providing customers with plastic carryout bags (produce bags and individual product bags are exempt) if you are Tier 1 or Tier 2.
  3. Make recyclable paper carryout bags or reusable carryout bags available to customers. More details on bag compliance.
  4. Charge customers using recyclable paper carryout bags 10-cents per bag ("no store shall rebate or otherwise reimburse customers for any or all of the 10-cent charge required").
  5. Provide free of charge, at the point of sale, either reusable bags or recyclable paper carryout bags or both (your option), to any customer participating in supplemental food programs.
  6. Indicate the number of recyclable paper carryout bags provided and the total amount charged for the bags on customer receipts.
  7. Complete and submit the Annual Report to the City by your store due date (August 14, 2015 for Tier 1; February 14, 2016 for Tier 2).

What information will be included in the Store Annual Report?

  • Total number of paper bags provided (including those provided free of charge to California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or in the Supplemental Food Program).
  • Any store efforts to promote recycling of single-use carryout bags. Examples of this would be providing employees with training on how to encourage customers to bring their own bag (e.g. Asking customers “Do you have your own bag today?” and thanking customers who bring their own reusable bags to reinforce this habit and to encourage other customers within listening range to do the same), incentive programs or promotional bag giveaways.
  • Total monies collected from the paper bag charge (NOTE: actual monies collected from the paper bag charge may be retained by the store). 

You can see the Annual Report template here.

When are the reports due?

TIER 1 STORES: Supermarkets and stores with a pharmacy that have 10,000 square feet of retail space or more (official definition)

TIER 2 STORES: Smaller Grocery Stores, drug stores, pharmacies, convenience food stores and food marts (official definition)

Will other sections of my store that have their own checkout stand have to comply with the Ordinance?

Yes.

Bags

What is the simplest version of what is OK and not OK under the new Ordinance?

What types of plastic bags are prohibited by this ordinance?

Typical thin plastic bags, with handles, provided at check out are prohibited. The ordinance defines a plastic carryout bag as, "Any bag made predominantly of plastic derived from either petroleum, natural gas, or a biologically-based source, such as corn or other plant sources, which is provided to a customer at the point of sale. 'Plastic carryout bag' includes compostable and biodegradable bags but does not include reusable bags, produce bags, or product bags."

Are biodegradable plastic bags allowed?

No. Plastic carryout bag means any bag made predominantly of plastic derived from either petroleum or a biologically-based source, such as corn or other plant sources.

Why are compostable and biodegradable bags included in the definition of Plastic Carryout Bags that are prohibited?

Compostable and biodegradable bags have all the same fly-away tendencies that bags made out of light-weight plastic do, therefore they are as likely to become litter or marine debris. Compostable bags are made to compost in an industrial composting facility, not in the natural environment.

How do I know if my reusable and paper carryout bags satisfy the Ordinance requirements?

Your carryout bags must meet the minimum requirements listed in the Ordinance. See our page on Bag Compliance to find reusable bags in compliance with the Ordinance and appropriate testing laboratories.

What is the definition of a reusable bag?

A bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and meets all of the following requirements:

  1. Has a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, which for purposes of this ordinance, means the capability of carrying a minimum of 22 pounds 125 times over a distance of at least 175 feet.
  2. Has a minimum volume of 15 liters.
  3. Is machine washable or is made from a material that can be cleaned or disinfected.
  4. Does not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts.
  5. Has printed on the bag, or on a tag that is permanently affixed to the bag, the name of the manufacturer, the location (country) where the bag was manufactured, a statement that the bag does not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts, and the percentage of postconsumer recycled material used, if any.
  6. If made of plastic, is a minimum of at least 2.25 mils thick.

Can plastic bags at least 2.25 mils thick be considered "reusable"?

Yes, as long as the minimum lifespan of the bags is 125 uses (as defined in the ordinance). See our page on Bag Compliance to find reusable bags in compliance with the Ordinance and appropriate testing laboratories.

What is the definition of a recyclable paper carryout bag?

Paper bags must meet all of the following requirements:

  1. Contains no old growth fiber.
  2. Is one hundred percent (100%) recyclable overall and contains a minimum of forty percent (40%) post-
    consumer recycled material.
  3. Is capable of composting, consistent with the timeline and specifications of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard D6400.
  4. Is accepted for recycling in curbside programs in the City.
  5. Has printed on the bag the name of the manufacturer, the location (country) where the bag was manufactured, and the percentage of postconsumer recycled material used.
  6. Displays the word “Recyclable” in a highly visible manner on the outside of the bag.

Can I continue to sell plastic trash bag liners?

Yes. Trash bags are not prohibited, unless they are provided at checkout for the purpose of transporting groceries or other goods.

Is there a law that requires me to put alcoholic beverages into carryout bags?

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has released an Industry Advisory regarding this question. There is no California law that mandates a retailer provide a bag for purchased alcoholic beverages. There is also no law requiring retailers in the City of Santa Barbara to provide a bag for purchased alcoholic beverages.  If a paper bag is provided, you must apply the 10-cent charge.

Can customers use their own carryout bag?

Yes.

What can customers use as a carryout bag?

Anything they can safely carry their groceries with, including: reusable bags, baskets, buckets, and boxes, for example.

What if customers don't want to buy/bring a reusable bag or purchase a paper bag?

If they can comfortably carry their paid purchases out by hand, that is one option; or their goods can be packaged back into the shopping cart or basket for transporting to their vehicle, where they can be unloaded.

Is there a place where low-income people can buy discounted reusable bags?

Residents participating in supplemental food programs are eligible to receive either free reusable bags or recyclable paper bags or both, at the store’s option.

Won't buying all these paper and reusable bags be a burden on my customers during these hard economic times?

Customers have a variety of options available to bypass the cost of purchasing paper and reusable bags, such as:

  • Bring a reusable bag or avoid a bag on small purchases.
  • Obtain free reusable bags that are often given out by businesses and community organizations at special events as promotional items.
  • Residents participating in supplemental food programs are eligible to receive either free reusable bags or recyclable paper bags or both, at the store’s option. 

Are reusable bags recyclable? Where can customers bring them to be recycled?

Woven or cloth reusable bags are not recyclable.  The best option for this type of bag is to donate it to a second hand store if it is still in usable condition or repurpose the material.  Plastic bags, at least 2.25 mils thick are also defined as reusable bags.  These bags can be recycled and placed in the blue recycle bin.

10-Cent Charge 

What is the 10-cent charge used for?

All monies collected by a store under this Ordinance may be retained by the store and may be used for:

  • Costs associated with compliance.
  • Actual costs of providing recyclable paper carryout bags.
  • Costs associated with a store's educational materials or education campaign encouraging the use of reusable bags.

Does the 10-cent charge per paper bag apply to everyone? Who is exempt?

All regulated stores must provide at the point of sale, free of charge, either reusable bags or recyclable paper carryout bags or both, at the store's option, to any customer participating in supplemental nutrition programs.

Is the 10-cent charge per paper bag taxable?

Not currently. Please check with the State Board of Equalization. The latest advisory is that the 10-cent charge on paper bags is not subject to State sales tax. 

Will there be a charge for small-sized paper bags distributed at checkout, typically provided by small stores to their customers?

Yes. A recyclable paper carryout bag, of any size, that is provided at checkout to a customer is subject to the 10-cent charge (except for prescription bags).

Which bags should I charge 10-cents for?

You must charge 10-cents for each paper bag provided (regardless of size) to a customer for the purpose of carrying purchased goods away from your store. Carryout bags provided to participants in supplemental food programs are exempt from this charge.

Are prescription bags subject to the 10-cent charge?

No. Paper bags distributed for physician-prescribed prescriptions are not regulated.

Enforcement

Who is responsible for enforcement of the ordinance, and what are the penalties?

The City’s main goal is to help store owners and operators to understand and comply with the ordinance and to educate their customers about the new requirements. If necessary, the City will enforce the Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance in accordance with the Santa Barbara Muncipal Code. Store owners and operators that are found to be in violation with the Muncipal Code will first receive a Notice of Violation and a deadline to correct the violation.  If the violation is not corrected by the specified deadline, the City may take further enforcement action, including the imposition of fines and penalties, as set forth in the Municipal Code.

Public Education

Will each store be responsible for letting its customers know it will be participating in this ordinance?

Stores are encouraged to inform customers that bags will no longer be provided at check out starting on the store's compliance date. Stores may consider promoting shopping with reusable bags in weekly circulars, company websites, social media, and outgoing phone messages.

The 10-cent charge per paper bag may be used for costs associated with a store's education for its customers.

The Environmental Services Division intends to provide some templates to assist stores with customer education.

Last Updated: Feb 1, 2016