City News

Plastic Bags Prohibited in Daly City Retail Stores Effective Monday, April 22 (Earth Day)

Starting Monday, April 22, 2013, single-use carryout bags will be prohibited at retail stores within Daly City. Reusable bags or bags made of recycled content paper may be provided, but only if the store charges a minimum of 10 cents per bag.

Other cities in San Mateo County that have adopted similar ordinances include Belmont, Colma, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, Pacific, Portola Valley, San Bruno, San Carlos, and South San Francisco. Brisbane, Burlingame and Redwood City are expected to adopt local ordinances that would prohibit plastic bags in those cities.

Why was this ordinance adopted?
The Reusable Bag Ordinance was adopted by Daly City City Council and other participating cities to decrease the number of bags going to landfill, reduce litter in local waterways, and save cities money on litter and storm drain cleanup.

This ordinance helps reduce unnecessary waste, contamination in recycling and composting programs, and litter, all of which is costly to San Mateo County taxpayers, as well as harmful to marine life. The reusable bag ordinance encourages customers to bring their own bags in order to reduce the impact of disposable bags to the County and the environment.

How can I learn more about the ordinance?
Up-to-date information can be found on San Mateo County’s website:

Which stores are affected?
All retail establishments, including but not limited to grocery, retail, convenience, pharmacy stores in San Mateo County are affected.

Restaurants and non-profit charitable reuse organizations are not impacted by the ordinance. Non-profits are charitable organizations, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or a distinct operating unit or division of the charitable organization, that reuses and recycles donated goods or materials and receives more than fifty percent of its revenues from the handling and sale of those donated goods or materials.

Are restaurants included in this new ordinance?
Restaurants are currently not included in the San Mateo County Reusable Bag Ordinance. Combined facilities such as a grocery store with a deli counter are a bit different. The food coming from the deli in a bag is exempt from the charge because it is a protective bag but they cannot then go to the cashier, place that food into another bag and be exempt from a bag charge at the checkout.

Why aren’t all stores in the county included?
The ordinance includes the stores that traditionally distribute a high volume of single-use carry out bags. Additional stores may be included in the future.

Are pharmacies exempt?
Pharmacies as a whole are not exempt. The portion that is exempt is the bags required to protect the privacy of the individuals with prescription drugs. Any additional bag used for carry out is not exempt.

What do I do with all my excess plastic bags?
Retailers have a few options for their bags. They can return the bags to the manufacturer if possible. The larger retailers can send their bags to associated stores in locations that do not have such an ordinance. Stores that do not have these options can donate their bags to a non-profit charitable re-user and get a tax write off for the donation. Lastly, recycling the bags through appropriate service providers, some of which can be found on

Is Kaiser Permanente exempt from the ordinance as a non-profit?
No, Kaiser Permanente and other non-profits would not qualify. The exemption is for non-profit charitable re-user such as a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul.

What types of bags are allowed if I can no longer use single-use plastic bags?
· Recycled paper bags made of no old growth fiber and a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content, 100% recyclable with words “reusable” or “recyclable” printed on the outside.

· Or Reusable bags made of cloth or machine washable fabric or a durable plastic material with handles that is at least 2.25 mil thick and designed for multiple reuse.

Are biodegradable/compostable bags allowed?No. At this time, biodegradable and/or compostable bags are not included in the ordinance. Compostable bags require specific conditions to break down properly which they are not typically found in the environment.

Are gift bags exempt?
Yes, gift bags would not be considered a carry out bag.

Can plastic be used to wrap products (i.e., light fixtures, paintings, etc.)?
Yes, the thin film plastic to wrap products is allowed. It does not fall under the definition of single use carry out bag.

Are retailers required to charge?
Businesses are required to charge a minimum of 10 cents per paper checkout or reusable bag. A retailer can choose to charge anything above the 10 cents, especially for the sturdier reusable bags.

The 10 cent charge must be listed as a single line item on the customer’s receipt.

Is the bag charge fee taxable? The charge is not taxable to the consumer according to the State Board of Equalization Special Notice: Sales Tax Does Not Apply to City and County Bag Surcharges.

Does the sales tax exemption apply to reusable bags as well?
Yes, whether it is paper or other reusable bag, if it is a 10 cent charge it will be exempt from the tax.

Are all bags provided by stores subject to a charge?
No. Produce, bulk items, meat bags, protective bags (for baked good or nails/screws or wine), garment cleaning bags, and bags used to hold prescription medications from the pharmacy are all exempt.

Does everyone have to pay the bag charge?
Customers purchasing food with Women, Infant, Children (WIC) or CalFresh/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Programs can be given a waiver for the bag charge. It is at the discretion of the retailer.

Who gets the bag charge fee?
Stores keep the entire checkout bag charge in order to offset the cost of allowable bags. The charge must be a line item on the receipt and records kept for three years.

Can a store refund the paper bag cost with a returned item?That is a business decision so it is at the retailers’ discretion. If a customer returns an item and a bag that they paid for, the retailer has the option to refund the cost of the bag as well.

Can a retailer discount the cost of the 10 cents bag fee?
No. A retailer must charge a minimum of 10 cents for the bag as directed in the ordinance. The ordinance does not prohibit a retailer from discounting another item to compensate the customer for the 10 cent charge. Also retailers have been known to offer a higher quality reusable bag for 10 cents, if customers spend a certain dollar amount.

How will the Reusable Bag Ordinance be enforced?
San Mateo County Environmental Health inspectors will enforce the ordinance on a complaint basis only. The County will be taking an education first approach to ensure that retailers understand the requirements of the ordinance.