Updates on City of San José Services and/or Operations . (more information)

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Bring Your Own Bag Information

Phone: 408-534-BYOB (2962)


The Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance (Refer to Chapter 9.10, Part 13) became effective January 1, 2012, with the following provisions:

  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, small and large retailers can no longer provide plastic carryout bags at checkout.
  • Stores may still provide paper bags made of 40% post-consumer recycled material and charge a minimum of 10 cents for each bag. The charge will be retained by the store.

Shopping with a Reusable Bag is the Best Choice

Paper, plastic, and reusable bagA high-quality reusable bag has the potential to replace over 600 single-use plastic bags over its lifetime, significantly reducing plastic bag litter and conserving natural resources. Paper bags are also problematic, taking 14 million trees each year in the United States to produce a year's supply of paper bags for retail use.

Recycle Plastic Bags at Local Grocery and Pharmacy Stores

Reuse or return plastic bags to your local grocery or pharmacy stores for recycling. Plastic bag recycling bins are typically found near store entrances.

Of the plastic bags collected at curbside, only 4% are recycled, the rest are landfilled or become litter, which is washed down storm drains and into our waterways. The City of San José no longer collects plastic bags at curbside for recycling because plastic carryout bags interfere with the recycling facility’s machinery, costing an estimated $1 million in repairs each year.

Results of the Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance

Litter Reduction

  • 76 percent reduction in plastic bags found in creeks and rivers as of the end of the 2016 hotspot season
  • 69 percent reduction in plastic bags in storm drain inlets, according to the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program's 2016 Storm Drain Trash Monitoring and Characterization Project – Technical Report

Consumer Behavior Changes

  • 46 percent of bags used by customers are reusable, up from 3 percent before the ban, according to the City's 2017 consumer survey
  • More customers are opting to carry out items without a bag – 43 percent of customers are not using a bag to carry out items versus 13 percent pre-ban

Retailer Compliance

  • Since the November 2015 retail survey, NO San José businesses surveyed are providing single-use carry-out bags to their customers.

Retailer Checklist

  • Stock paper bags with at least 40% post-consumer recycled content paper bag.
  • Charge a minimum of 10 cents for each paper bag as a separate item on the sales receipt. For tax information, review the statement by the California Board of Equalization for more information about the minimum price on bags.
  • Maintain three years of onsite records of your company’s purchase and sale of paper bags (with at least 40% post-consumer recycled content) as of January 1, 2012.

Additional Suggestions

  • Sell and promote the use of reusable bags in your store and your company’s circulars, online media, and company website; add a link to for those customers who may want more information.
  • Offer a credit or incentive to customers who shop with reusable bags.

If you have questions about the Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance, call (408) 534-BYOB (2962) or email us.