• Plastic Bags


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Single Use Plastic Bags


In December 2011, the City of Sunnyvale adopted a single-use carryout bag ordinance. This ordinance prohibits the use of plastic bags and requires paper bags distributed to be a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content, accompanied by a ten cent charge that is kept by the store. Bags recommended for use include durable reusable bags.

 Phase 1 took effect on June 20, 2012 for all grocery, convenience, liquor and drug stores. Also included are other large stores sized 10,000 square feet and over and/or stores that generate $2 million or more that sell perishable goods.

 Phase 2 took effect on March 20, 2013 for all other retailers.

On September 26, 2013, revisions to the ordinance became effective which include:

A 10 cent charge also applies to reusable bags:

Stores must apply a 10 cent charge for both paper bags and reusable bags (bags that meet the definition of “reusable” in the ordinance) provided at the point of checkout. This does not apply to reusable bags sold as retail items elsewhere in the store or to bags customers bring to the store for carrying away purchases.

Quarterly reporting by stores is no longer required:

Stores are no longer required to report their collection of paper bag charges to the City each quarter. Stores are still required to show the bag charge as a separate line item on their receipts but instead of reporting quarterly, stores are asked to maintain records for three years and provide them to the City if requested to do so.

Reusable bags must meet specific durability requirements:

The definition of “reusable bag” has been clarified by referencing a specific standard for durability.  The existing requirements for labeling and toxicity will remain the same.   Please visit  Los Angeles County's About The Bag page for a list of vendors who sell reusable bags that meet the standard.

Paper bag charge will NOT increase to 25 cents:

The charge for paper bags was slated to increase to 25 cent in 2014, but will remain at 10 cents. In future years, the ten cent charge will be adjusted (in five cent increments) by the change in the consumer price index (CPI).  Based on historical CPI data, it would take 10-12 years before a five-cent increase would be triggered.


Paper bags: Paper bags distributed must be a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content accompanied by a ten cent charge. Country of origin and percentage of recycled content must clearly be stated on the bag. Refer to the paper bag supplier list to find a manufacturer in compliance.

Plastic bags: Compostable/ biodegradable bags or plastic bags that are 2.25 mils thick but do not meet the other standards for durability and toxicity are defined as single-use, do not meet ordinance requirements, and are not allowed for distribution. Meat and produce bags are allowed to segregate food items upon purchase.

Reusable bags at the checkout stand: 

  • Stores can provide reusable bags with a charge of ten cents at the checkout stand (point of purchase) if they meet the requirements as defined in the ordinance. Visit the County of Los Angeles' website for a list of bag vendors in compliance with the ordinance and find resources to test reusable bags. For example, if a store has been providing a thick plastic bag at the point of checkout because it meets the definition of "reusable" in the ordinance (previously exempt from the charge), that store now has to charge the ten cent fee for that bag.

  Reusable bags for sale on store shelves, kiosks or elsewhere in the store: 

  • There are no restrictions on reusable bags displayed and for sale on shelves, kiosks or elsewhere in the store other than point of sale. Reusable bags sold at point of sale are taxable. A reusable bag supplier list is provided as a convenience to store owners. If you are a bag supplier and would like to be added to the City's reusable bag supplier list contact (408) 730-7262 or Bringyourbags@sunnyvale.ca.gov


A state plastic bag recycling law called AB 2449 went into effect in 2007 that required most large grocery and pharmacy retailers to place clearly marked plastic recycling bins at each store. With Sunnyvale's Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance in place stores are no longer required to provide recycle bins for plastic bags, but are encouraged to do so as a community service to their customers.

Recycle used produce, carryout, newspaper, bread and other plastic bags at participating local stores


Through a program called "Bag It Forward" the City of Sunnyvale has partnered with Sunnyvale Community Services to collect and donate reusable bags.  There is one collection site in Sunnyvale where new reusable bags can be dropped off:  For Other Living Things pet supply store (1261 S Mary Ave).


The SMaRT Station spends 14 person hours a day, equivalent to 3,654 hours a year, unclogging plastic bags from recycling machinery, a problem that has compromised productivity of the recycling process.

 Before the ordinance went into effect it was estimated that Sunnyvale alone used 75 million plastic bags a year, each resident on average using 497 single-use bags per year.

$25 million is spent annually by the State of California cleaning up plastic bag litter from storm drains, creeks, rivers and roadways.

Despite a 15 year effort, recycling of plastic bags has failed. Only 5% of plastic bags used get recycled. The rest get landfilled or end up as litter on roadways, rivers, creeks and in the ocean.


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Aspen, CO, Washington D.C., Seattle, Brownsville, TX, Austin, TX, some Canadian cities, Bangladesh, China, Mexico City, Rwanda, South Africa, South Australia, Italy, IrelandTaiwanMaui County, HawaiiPortland, Oregon. Proposed bans and fees on bags include Wilton, CT, Arkansas, and Western Australia.
Zero Waste World has information and photos about plastic bag bans in other parts of the world.

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