CONFUSION REIGNS IN CALIFORNIA OVER REUSABLE BAGS
California shoppers are getting mixed messages about using reusable bags during the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to KCRA 3 News.
The confusion was sparked by the state reinstating its plastic bag ban. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached California, officials paused the law. For two months, retail establishments were allowed to temporarily provide bags to customers without charge to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Then, select grocery stores in March stopped allowing customers to bring their own reusable bags as a way to prevent virus transference, as well as protect workers and customers. Some counties soon followed and banned the practice as well.
Initially, warnings circulated about the possible spread of coronavirus on frequently-touched surfaces. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 is more easily spread between people.
The state law was restarted on June 22, meaning shoppers had to again pay 10 cents for single-use plastic or paper bags provided by stores. To avoid the fee, shoppers can bring a personal reusable bag to put their newly bought items in to carry home -- like before the pandemic.
However, that's not the case everywhere. Depending on where you shop and county rules, reusable shopping bags may still not be allowed in the store. While Sacramento County public health officials lifted the county ban on bringing personal shopping bags into stores on June 29, that may not be the case in a neighboring county.
Jacques Loveall, UFCW-8 president representing grocery store workers for Safeway, Save Mart and Raley's, disagrees with officials lifting the ban on personal reusable bags.
"Reversing the ban on reusable bags is totally irresponsible," Loveall said in a statement. "The temporary ban was put in place to protect both workers and customers from COVID-19. Grocery workers risk their health every day and with the virus spiking we have deep concerns for their safety."
Customers have mixed reactions to the changes.
"It's just really nice," said Dayo Horton. "I'm hoping this will cut back down on plastic pollution."
"I think it was a really great policy to have us not bring in bags for the safety of not only consumers, but also for staff that have to deal with consumers day in and day out," said Scheri Mathay of Del Paso Heights.
"The amount that we waste is astronomical and we should not be wasting it," said Emma Gluckman of Land Park.
Despite county rules, each store has the final say on whether to allow customers to bring in reusable bags. But, because of the state law, shoppers will have to pay 10 cents to use store-provided, single-use bags.
At Raley's, the grocer is allowing reusable bags -- but with a caveat. Signs posted outside the front door state customers have to bag their own groceries if they are using a personal reusable bag. It's a policy most grocers have adopted.