• Plastic Bag Restrictions

  • An Overview of the Proposed Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance

    Plastic bags are among the most commonly found garbage in Town creeks, roadsides and waterways. The bags are a large contributor to water pollution and litter in our community.


    State legislation signed into law by Governor Brown on September 30, 2014 (SB 270) prohibits food stores (grocery stores, liquor stores and mini marts) and certain retailers (stores with gross sales of $2 million or greater that sell perishables and stores with at least 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space that have a pharmacy) from providing single-use carryout plastic bags to customers, effective July 1, 2015.


    In summer and fall 2014, the Town of Danville conducted outreach to businesses and the public regarding a potential ban on plastic carryout bags.  The Town received feedback through surveys, social media, two study sessions, three public informational workshops and three Town Council meetings. 


    To help eliminate plastic litter and promote environmental sustainability, the Town of Danville adopted an ordinance in December 2014 regarding Single-use Carryout Plastic Bags.  In an effort to allow adequate time for retail businesses and public eating establishments to comply, the ordinance takes effect in approximately 18 months, on July 1, 2016. 


    Effective July 1, 2016:

    • Retail and public eating establishments may not distribute plastic carryout bags at point of sale.

    • Retail and public eating establishments are not required to charge customers for each paper bag distributed at point of sale, although retail establishments may choose to do so.

    • Paper bags must be made of at least 40 percent recycled content.

    • The Plastic Carryout Bag Ordinance applies to all retail establishments (businesses that sell goods including, but not limited to, clothing, food, and personal items) and public eating establishments (restaurants, take-out food establishments and other businesses that receives 90% or more of its revenue from the sale of prepared food).

    Violation of the ordinances may result in an infraction the retail or public eating establishment of $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation, and $500 for the third and any additional violations.

    The Town of Danville’s ordinance preempts the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags (SB 270).




  •     Can we install filters in storm drains to help the plastic bag problem?

    The Town received a demonstration grant in 2011 to install trash capture devices. Sixty one devices were installed with this money that covered over 40% of the downtown area of Danville. Each device was custom fit to the drainage inlet and the devices include a bypass mechanism in the event of large storms. These devices require regular cleaning three times a year and in some cases more frequently if they get too full or clogged.

        I’ve heard that the Town would receive a 7% trash reduction credit for cities that adopt plastic bag bans? Can that be optional?

    Cities in the San Francisco Bay Area must meet rigorous trash reduction requirements set by the California State Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) in 2009. The requirements include a goal to reduce trash in waterways by 70% in 2017 and 100% in 2022. Cities and Counties have all worked on reducing trash in our communities by a variety of ways. In Danville, to-date 61 trash capture devices were installed in storm drains downtown, new trash/recycling cans were placed throughout the downtown area and several on-land clean-ups to pick up trash were conducted. It will become increasingly challenging for cities to reach the 70% and 100% reduction thresholds. The California State RWQCB has recently reported that cities that adopt comprehensive plastic bag bans would receive up to a 7% trash reduction credit that would count towards the 100% trash reduction requirement, although this has not been verified in light of the enactment of SB 270. This option would be more affordable than other means, such as installation of trash capture devices that are expensive to install and require on-going maintenance costs as well. An ordinance that only encourages the elimination of plastic bags would not qualify as a comprehensive plastic bag restriction.





        Where can I find a copy of the adopted ordinance?
    The ordinance that was adopted by the Town Council in December 2014 can be found here
        Are plastic carryout bags really that big a deal?
    World-wide, there are an estimated 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags used each year. In California, the Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) estimates that Californians use nearly 13 billion single-use plastic bags per year. Statistics show that only about 5% of those bags get into the recycling bins at the grocery store. Put another way, if each plastic bag were stretched out flat the number used in California each year would be enough to cover the entire surface area of the Town of Danville 26 times.
        When does the local ordinance take effect?

    The Town of Danville ordinance takes affect beginning on July 1, 2016.

        How many businesses will be affected?

    The Town of Danville's ordinance affects approximately 119 retailers and 73 public eating establishments starting July 1, 2016.

        How many other cities have adopted plastic bag ban ordinances?
    Over 113 cities or counties in California have enacted some type of local ordinance regulating plastic carryout bags
        If California has a statewide plastic bag ban (SB 270), why did Danville adopt one?

    SB 270 primarily targets food stores (grocery stores, liquor stores and mini-marts) and retailers of a certain size (stores with gross sales of $2 million or more and stores with at least 10,000 square feet of retail space that have a pharmacy). Danville’s ordinance implements a ban on plastic bags to all retailers, as well as public eating establishments. This proposal is being considered as a way to have all businesses be affected equally and plastic carryout bags prohibited across the board in the Town of Danville.

        What is SB270 and how will it affect Danville?

    Senate Bill No. 270, also known as SB 270, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 30, 2014.  It prohibits food stores and retailers of a certain classification from providing plastic carryout bags to customers, beginning July 1, 2015 for retailers of a certain size and July 1, 2016 for all grocery stores and minimarts.  The new law allows cities to enact a local ordinance in place of SB 270, if the ordinance is adopted before January 1, 2015. 


    Because the Danville Town Council adopted its own ordinance before January 1, 2015, SB 270 will not affect any retailers in Danville. The entire text of SB 270 can be found here:  


        Why was a plastic bag ban considered?
    Plastic bags are among the most commonly found garbage in Town creeks, roadsides and waterways. Plastic carryout bags are among the leading contributors to water pollution and litter in the community. Because they are lightweight, they can be blown out of waste receptacles even when properly disposed of. Most plastic bags do not biodegrade. Plastic bags can take 500 years to photo degrade through damage, time and exposure to the elements, many becoming small toxic bits that contaminate soil and water and constitute a health hazard for wildlife. In addition, plastic bags (due to their lightweight yet durable nature) tend to get stuck in the sorting machinery at the landfill, creating problems and additional costs.
  •     What about Styrofoam? Why isn’t a ban on plastic food ware included?
    The Town Council is not considering other restrictions currently. The impact of single-use plastic bags in creeks, storm drains and the environment is the primary concern at this time.
        What constitutes a plastic carryout bag?

    Carryout Bag means any bag, including a Plastic Bag, provided at the check stand,

    cash register, point of sale or other point of departure for the purpose of

    transporting food, merchandise, or other goods out of a Retail Establishment or a

    Public Eating Establishment. Carryout Bags do not include Produce Bags or

    Product Bags.  


    Plastic Bag means any bag made predominantly of plastic derived from either

    petroleum, ethylene derived from natural gas, or a biologically-based source,

    such as corn or other plant sources. The term “Plastic Bag” includes compostable

    and biodegradable bags but does not include Reusable Bags, Recycled Paper

    Carryout Bags, Produce Bags, or Product Bags.

        What about plastic bags for produce, meat, nuts or candy?
    The small plastic bags for fruits, vegetables, nuts and candy are not considered plastic carryout bags.
        I’ve seen the Shop Danville reusable bags given out to residents at Farmers’ Markets and other events. Do they qualify as reusable bags per Danville's ordinance?

    The Shop Danville bags given out to residents qualify as reusable based on the definition of the Town of Danville's ordinance.

        What are the requirements for public eating establishments?
    Public eating establishments (restaurants, delis, etc.) would be prohibited from distributing plastic carryout bags to customers for take-out food. Paper bags would be provided to customers at no charge. Individual plastic bags without handles may be used around wet items or containers of soup to prevent leakage/spillage.
        Will dog waste bags be allowed?
    Yes. Dog waste bags are allowed, as they do not qualify as single-use carryout bags with handles.
        What are the standards for reusable bags that can be provided by retailers or restaurants?

    Danville's ordinance would closely resemble the defining language in the City of Walnut Creek and other Contra Costa cities’ ordinances, requiring that reusable bags meet the following requirements:

    1. A minimum lifetime of 125 uses, which means the capacity of carrying a minimum of 22 pounds 125 times over a distance of at least 175 feet;
    1. Is machine washable or capable of being cleaned and disinfected;
    1. Does not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts as defined by applicable State and Federal standards and regulations for packaging or reusable bags; and
    1. If made of plastic, is a minimum of 2.25 mils thick.
  •     Will customers be charged for the paper bags?

    The Town of Danville’s ordinance is silent on the issue, neither requiring nor prohibiting retailers from charging customers for the use of paper bags. 


    The mandatory charge for paper bags found in SB 270 and some other local ordinances is designed to help the retailers recoup some of the cost for the recycled paper bags and also to encourage customers to bring their own reusable shopping bag to the store. After listening to feedback from small retailers and customers, the Town Council determined that many retailers in Danville already provide paper bags to customers and would be adversely impacted by being forced to charge a fee.  The Town also believes there are other, more effective means of encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags.

        How does the cost of the bags compare between plastic and paper?

    An analysis from Southern California indicated that recycled content paper bags purchased by large grocers (e.g., Ralphs, Vons) ranged from $0.05 to $0.15 per bag. While some small retailers and boutiques in Danville have reported to spend up to $1.50 per bag on higher quality bags with handles made of twine, others have found paper bags to be more affordable than plastic. Carryout plastic bags cost grocery stores between $0.005 to $0.010 per bag, and up to $0.05 per bag for smaller orders (smaller businesses).

  •     Can the plastic bags be recycled in the conventional recycling cart?
    Plastic bags can only be recycled through the State’s “In-Store” Recycling Program, where approximately 5% to 10% of bags are recycled. Unfortunately, recycling equipment cannot take plastic bags and in fact become jammed in conventional recycling equipment.
        What happens to plastic bags if they end up in the garbage?
    Plastic bags that end up in the garbage are transported to a nearby landfill. Plastic bags that stay in place will take at least 500 years to photo degrade, especially if they are buried deep beneath debris. Unfortunately many of the bags that are dumped in the landfill blow away and are caught in the fencing surrounding landfills such as Keller Canyon in Pittsburg. The cost to remove these bags is incurred by trash and recycling ratepayers.
        What is the Town of Danville doing to encourage the use of reusable bags?

    In an effort to promote the use of reusable bags in Danville retail establishments, the Town is distributing 10,000 reusable shopping bags free of charge to local residents.  These bags will be distributed through the Danville Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and other special events.  The reusable bags are part of an economic development effort and feature the Shop Danville brand, reminding residents to shop locally.

  •     Where would revenues for the fines go?
    Revenues would go to the Town of Danville’s General Fund, although little if any revenues would be expected. The cost to administer the enforcement would likely exceed any potential revenue from fines.
        What are the fines for non-compliance?
    Violation of the ordinance is an infraction that would first involve a warning notice for the first violation, $100 for the 2nd violation, $200 for the 3rd violation and $500 for the 4th and subsequent violations.
        Who would enforce the law?
    The local ordinance would be enforced by the Town of Danville. Code enforcement would be called in on a complaint basis.
        How will the Town enforce an ordinance restricting plastic bags? How much will the Town spend on enforcement?

    Once the ordinance takes effect, if complaints are received about a business, courtesy notices would be sent to the merchant before any fines were issued. Given the Town’s limited staffing resources on code enforcement (only half of a full-time staff person), other higher-priority quality-of-life issues would be addressed before efforts are spent enforcing the single-use plastic bag ordinance. No additional staffing resources would be spent on enforcement.

  •     Is there a marketing plan and education plan for residents now that the ordinance has passed?
    The Town has committed to delivering a thorough marketing and education plan to residents and businesses through print media, online education and informational workshops.