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California to not force 10-cent grocery bag charge amid virus

California grocery and retail stores won’t be required to charge 10 cents per bag, and they can again hand out thinner, single-use plastic bags under an executive order signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Posted: Apr 24, 2020 11:53 AM
Updated: Apr 24, 2020 12:02 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California grocery and retail stores won’t be required to charge 10 cents per bag, and they can again hand out thinner, single-use plastic bags under an executive order signed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

It’s a change that retailers have wanted for weeks, as many major grocery chains have stopped letting customers bring in reusable bags over fears of spreading the coronavirus. California, which has some of the nation’s strictest laws aimed at reducing plastic waste, banned stores from handing out single-use plastic bags and required them to charge 10 cents for all paper and plastic bags several years ago. Newsom’s order suspends those rules for 60 days. Stores can still charge for the bags if they want.

“For the time being, in the state of emergency, this is just a great relief” to store employees and customers, said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailer’s Association, which represents grocery chains like Safeway and Walmart as well as other major retailers. Some other states and governments have taken similar steps.

The executive order also allows grocery stores to temporarily stop accepting recyclable bottles and cans, which they then transfer to recycling centers. Consumers will still be charged the deposit when they purchase the bottles.

In the order, Newsom wrote it is necessary to minimize the risk of exposure for workers performing essential activities, and that contact exposure at retail stores or recycling centers could spread COVID-19.

But not everyone supported the order. Mark Murray, of Californians Against Waste, said reusable bags are safe and “pose zero threat” if consumers bag their own groceries. He pointed to guidelines for grocery workers released last week by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health that offer employees three ways to deal with reusable bags: Not touch or use them, ask customers to leave them in their cart, or ask customers to bag their own groceries.

“Retailers, while maybe well intended, inflicted this costly and unnecessary wound on themselves by discouraging consumers from bringing their own bags,” he said in a statement. “The simple and safe solution for consumers and stores is for everyone to bring their reusable bags and bag their own groceries in line with Cal-OSHA guidelines.”

Michelin, of the California Retailers Association, said some stores in recent weeks had picked up the 10-cent bag fee while others were still charging consumers.

The Thursday executive order also granted an extension for some customers facing deadlines to renew expired licenses or ID cards, suspended late fees for expired vehicle registrations, and allowed electronic filings of certain notices related to the California Environmental Quality Act.

This story was updated on April 24, 2020, to correct the details of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order on plastic bags. The order suspends the requirement that stores charge 10 cents per bag, but it does not prohibit stores from charging.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 559746

Reported Deaths: 10377
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2085634977
Riverside40452799
Orange39641726
San Bernardino35712546
San Diego32330593
Kern23583171
Fresno17290171
Alameda13213208
San Joaquin12303211
Santa Clara11687204
Sacramento10795161
Tulare10475196
Imperial9693244
Stanislaus9665162
Contra Costa9182139
Ventura814689
San Francisco754867
Santa Barbara670469
San Mateo6110120
Marin532779
Monterey529335
Merced501264
Kings445356
Solano402940
Sonoma355647
Madera230239
Placer218620
San Luis Obispo209315
Yolo172143
Santa Cruz12386
Butte10958
Napa104610
Sutter9427
El Dorado7291
San Benito7154
Lassen6380
Yuba6004
Mendocino43110
Shasta41810
Colusa3624
Glenn3603
Nevada3221
Humboldt2824
Tehama2761
Lake2202
Amador1642
Mono1541
Tuolumne1522
Calaveras1471
Del Norte990
Siskiyou930
Inyo893
Mariposa612
Plumas340
Modoc50
Trinity50
Sierra30
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
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Very hot temperatures and the potential for mountain thunderstorms are ahead for your Monday. Temperatures won't be as hot for the middle of this week, but fire danger will be elevated. The heat returns this weekend.
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