The end of plastic bags in Berkeley? City studies banning them from grocery stores and restaurants

Berkeley is studying how to ban non-compostable plastic bags from grocery stores, restaurants and city-sponsored events.

Council Member Kate Harrison introduced legislation that directs the city’s Zero Waste and Energy Commission to hold hearings with businesses about the potential impact of removing plastic bags, including produce bags in grocery stores. The City Council is expected to pass Harrison’s legislation Tuesday.

In 2016, California instituted a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and required businesses to enforce a minimum 10-cent charge on reusable plastic and paper bags. Harrison said the need to take that action a step further is critical.

Harrison’s legislation would prevent most businesses, farmers’ markets, street fairs and other city events from giving out reusable plastic grocery and takeout bags. Harrison said Monday that the goal is to urge people to bring their own bags or use paper.

Berkeley has often been at the forefront of environmental legislation. In 2019, Berkeley became the first city in the nation to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. That same year, Berkeley also banned single-use disposables, requiring restaurants to use compostable to-go foodware.

The California Restaurant Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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