Checkout Bag Ordinance

The City and County of San Francisco amended Chapter 17 of the Environment Code, extending the plastic checkout bag ban to include all retail stores on 10/1/2012 and all food establishments starting on 10/1/2013. The Checkout Bag Ordinance also requires a charge on allowed checkout bags (compostable bags, recycled paper bags, or reusable bags). Shoppers can avoid the charge by bringing their own bag.

What You Need To Know

  • Applies to all food establishments starting on 10/1/2013 and retail stores since 10/1/2012
  • Prohibits all single-use plastic checkout bags
  • Requires a 10¢ minimum charge on all compliant checkout bags
  • Charge must be displayed separately on customer receipt
  • Allows stores and food establishments to keep the charge
  • Charge does not apply to EBT, WIC, SNAP, and food stamp program transactions

Three types of checkout bags are compliant:

  • Compostable plastic bags labeled with a certification logo
  • Paper bags labeled with 40% post-consumer recycled content
  • Reusable checkout bags designed for at least 125 uses and are washable

Bags subject to 10¢ charge:

  • All compliant checkout bags listed above, including bags provided for takeout and delivery orders

Bags NOT subject to 10¢ charge:

The ordinance does not apply to bags used for the following:

  • To contain loose bulk items such as produce, nuts, grains, candy, meat, fish, or small hardware
  • For unwrapped prepared foods such as bakery goods or popcorn
  • To prevent damage to a good or contamination of other goods placed together in the same bag (such as a bag used to wrap a container to prevent leakage of hot liquids).
  • Leftover food from sit down dining ("doggy bags")
  • Newspaper, laundry or dry cleaning bags
  • Pharmacy bags to contain prescription drugs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of San Francisco's Checkout Bag Ordinance?

The purpose of the Checkout Bag Ordinance is to reduce the impact to the city and the environment of disposable bags. A ten cent charge per checkout bag has been shown to reduce the number of disposable bags used by nearly 70-90%.

Seventy-five other communities in California are covered by similar laws. This ordinance will reduce litter and waste, as well as contamination in recycling and composting programs, in turn reducing costs to San Francisco taxpayers. In addition, the law will improve water quality in the Bay and the ocean by reducing pollution.

What types of businesses does the ordinance apply to?

The ordinance applies to all retail establishments in San Francisco as of October 1, 2012 and to all food establishments beginning October 1, 2013.

Are businesses required to charge?

Businesses are required to charge a minimum charge of ten cents per checkout bag. A business may charge more for checkout bags they provide.

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

Anonymously report stores that are not compliant and not charging for checkout bags with our San Francisco Bag Ordinance Non-Compliance Report Form. SF Environment will follow-up with the business.

How will the 10¢ charge be monitored?

The checkout bag charge must be itemized and shown separately on the customer’s receipt. Businesses will need to adjust their Point of Sale (POS) systems.

How will the ordinance affect WIC, EBT, SNAP and other food stamp program customers?

The charge does not apply to WIC, EBT, SNAP, and food stamp program transactions.

What about bags used for take-out and delivery orders?

The checkout bag charge must be applied to customers that receive meals delivered or picked up in a take-out bag.

How can customers avoid the charge?

Customers can avoid the charge by bringing their own bag or refusing a bag when they make a small purchase that is easy to carry without a bag. They can just say no to a bag.

Where does the 10¢ charge go?

Stores and food establishments keep the entire checkout bag charge in order to help offset the cost of compliant bags.

What happens to businesses that don’t comply?

SF Environment will focus primarily on education and helping businesses comply. For those who are persistently out of compliance, a warning can be issued, and fines can range from $100-$500.

What type of bags can businesses use? Where can businesses buy compliant bags?

Compliant checkout bags include:

  • Compostable plastic bags labeled with a certification logo
  • Paper bags labeled with 40% post-consumer recycled content
  • Reusable checkout bags designed for at least 125 uses and are washable

What use of bags does the checkout bag ordinance not apply to?

The ordinance does not apply to bags used for the following:

  • To contain loose bulk items such as produce, nuts, grains, candy, meat, fish, or small hardware
  • For unwrapped prepared foods such as bakery goods or popcorn
  • To prevent damage to a good or contamination of other goods placed together in the same bag (such as a bag used to wrap a container to prevent leakage of hot liquids)
  • Leftover food from sit-down dining ("doggy bags")
  • Newspaper, laundry or dry cleaning bags
  • Pharmacy bags used to contain prescription drugs

Resources for Businesses

English

Food Establishment Resources

 Where to Buy Bags

Retail Establishment Resources (How to Notify Customers)

Checkout Bag Definitions, Labeling Requirements, and Reusable Bag Verification Tests

Official Notice and Ordinance

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Resources for Shoppers

Additional Information for Checkout Bag Ordinance

Extended Bag Ban Enforcement and Penalties
Penalties for non-compliance range from $100-$500
Reuseit.com
Powerful facts about "the plastic bag pandemic"