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Updates on City of San José Services and/or Operations . (English | Español | Tiếng Việt | 中文)

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Bring Your Own Bag Information

Phone: (408) 534-BYOB (2962)

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Single-Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance Temporarily Lifted:

Effective May 1, 2020, the City of San José is temporarily suspending its Single-Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance to release retail establishments from the requirement to charge a minimum of 10 cents for bags at check out. This suspension of the City’s Single-Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance aligns with Santa Clara County health orders that prohibit customers from bringing in their own bags to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the state’s order from April 22. View our FAQ page for more information on the temporary suspension of the Single-Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance.

City Ordinance

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

Examples of reuseable bags.A 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

  • In creek and river litter surveys single-use plastic bags have shown a 78% reduction from 9.2% of total litter pre-ban to 2.0% of total litter post-ban.
  • Visual surveys conducted in FY 18-19 at retail locations indicate a 91% reduction in the average use of single-use bags, and an increase in reusable bag usage from 3.1% pre-ordinance to 47.4% post-ordinance.
  • Randomly selected field observations were conducted by Watershed Enforcement staff in June of 2019 at 92 retail businesses. One business was observed to be distributing single use plastic carry out bags. Most of the businesses, 85%, were supplying a compliant carry out bag, with 57% supplying paper bags and 42% supplying thick reusable compliant bags.
  • Pre- and post-ordinance characterization of trash in full trash capture systems in the City (via the SCVURPPP Study) determined that 69% fewer single-use bags were observed in stormwater after the ordinance went into effect.
  • Based on the results of these studies/surveys and the associated multiple lines of evidence, the City estimates an approximate 70% reduction in the number of single-use bags in stormwater. 

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 sjenvironment.org/bags 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.