The Future of Grocery Totes
In 2007, San Francisco instituted a single-use plastic-bag ban, the first in the country, which soon spread to 81 other Californian cities and counties, as well as municipalities in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington.
San Francisco's ban added retailers last year and restaurants Oct. 1. Upon switching to paper bags, the respective store is able to keep the minimum-10-cent charge on each bag, which is to be waived for those using federal or state food assistance programs. As in San Francisco, there are typically exceptions, such as meat, produce, pharmacy, newspaper and doggy bags.
Portland, Ore. followed suit, passing similar legislation, but without the mandatory fee in July 2011. The first phase only targeted grocery stores and large retailers with pharmacies, but in November 2012, its City Council voted to expand the ban to all retailers and food vendors. Phase two went into effect March 1 for larger stores with smaller locations joining in Oct. 1.
Redwood City, Calif. adopted San Mateo County's ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags in March 2013. The city's minimum 10-cent paper bag charge went into effect Oct. 1, and will rise to 25 cents in 2015. Fines for non-compliance in all three cities are $100 to $500.
Some municipalities have started to charge for plastic bags instead of banning them entirely, but all of this aims toward one goal: reducing the usage of plastic bags that litter the streets and shores. While some consumers may switch to paper bags, for which many lawmakers are forcing retailers to charge a nominal fee, others will opt for reusable bags-a trend that has resulted in a boost for the industry.
"There's a short-term spike. Some distributors are pretty good at getting ahead of the curve," Christopher Duffy, senior vice president of marketing for Bag Makers Inc., said of bans, like in Seattle where they worked with retailers prior to the July 2012 ban's effective date to prepare them for the law change.