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: 122168

Reported Deaths: 4444
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles596922532
Riverside8303345
San Diego7798283
Orange6783165
San Bernardino5650209
Alameda364197
Santa Clara2850144
San Francisco264443
Imperial249330
Kern246245
San Mateo224484
Tulare208392
Fresno194437
Santa Barbara171414
Contra Costa154738
Sacramento149058
Ventura119035
Kings11876
San Joaquin102436
Stanislaus79230
Monterey62110
Sonoma5934
Solano55922
Marin52517
Merced3107
San Luis Obispo2881
Placer2599
Santa Cruz2192
Yolo21624
Madera1293
Napa1263
Humboldt1044
El Dorado980
San Benito962
Butte601
Nevada491
Sutter482
Del Norte470
Shasta404
Mono371
Mendocino330
Yuba311
Lake300
Inyo201
Glenn170
Calaveras160
Mariposa161
Amador100
Siskiyou90
Colusa70
Tehama61
Tuolumne50
Lassen50
Plumas40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Chico
Few Clouds
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Hi: 90° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 72°
Oroville
Clear
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Hi: 90° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 72°
Paradise
Few Clouds
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Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 72°
Chester
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 71°
Red Bluff
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 74°
Willows
Few Clouds
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Hi: 94° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 72°
Today will be nice but much cooler weather this weekend with a chance of showers and thunderstorms, mostly in the north valley and mountains. We heat up again next week.
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