Skip to page body Home About Us What's New City Government Departments Living Visiting Doing Business I Want To...

Single-Use Bag Reduction Ordinance

Starting April 10, 2014:  The fee for paper bags goes from 10 cents to 25 cents. No plastic bags. So Bring Your Own Bag!!!

A new City of Santa Cruz ordinance restricting the distribution of carry-out retail bags takes effect on April 10, 2013. This ordinance bans the distribution of plastic carry-out bags and places a 10-cent per bag charge on paper carry-out bags. On April 10, 2014 the 10-cent per bag charge on paper carry-out bags increases to 25 cents.

Exemptions from the ordinance:

  • This City's ordinance does not apply to restaurants, including a café, bakery, delicatessen or catering truck, and also exempts prepared food from grocery and convenience stores’ food counters.
  • Customers participating in the California Special Supplemental Food Program, Food Stamp program, or other government-subsidized purchase programs for low-income residents are exempt from the per bag charge on paper bags.
  • The ban on single-use plastic bags and the charge on single-use paper bags do not apply to plastic or paper bags used to contain loose items prior to check-out or to protect produce, meat, or to protect items as they are put into a carry-out bag at checkout. Examples include: paper bags to protect bottles, plastic bags around ice cream or other wet items, paper bags used to weigh candy, paper pharmacy bags to hold drugs, or paper bags to protect greeting cards.

The City of Santa Cruz joins the County of Santa Cruz, City of Capitola, City of Watsonville and dozens of other California cities and counties that have enacted Single-Use Bag Reduction ordinances.


Resources for Businesses:

Information letter for Businesses

Placard for Use at Check-Out Location(s)

BOE Notice-Sales Tax Does Not Apply to Paper Bag Surcharges

The Ordinance
Single-Use Bag Ordinance

Staff Report to City Council [PDF]
The City prepared an Initial Study on the effects of the proposed Single-Use Bag Reduction Ordinance. View the Initial Study for the Single-Use Bag Reduction Ordinance  

For more information contact:

Bob Nelson, Superintendent of Resource Recovery
City of Santa Cruz
Public Works Department
809 Center Street, Room 201
Santa Cruz, CA 95060 

Phone:  831-420-5548

Some Bag Facts

  • Plastic bags take up about 2% of all landfill space.
  • Californians use up to 19 billion plastic bags a year. Average time of use: 12 minutes
  • Paper bags are recycled at a much higher rate than single-use plastic bags. Yet, a single-use paper bag creates more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and results in greater atmospheric acidification, water consumption, and ozone production than plastic bags.
  • “Biodegradable Plastic” bags are thought to be an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags, but have greater environmental impacts at manufacture, resulting in more greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption than conventional plastic bags. Biodegradable bags decompose only under composting conditions, so as litter they have the same impact on aesthetics and marine life as plastic bags.
  • Reusable bags can be made from plastic or cloth and are designed to be used hundreds of times. Reusable bags have significantly lower environmental impacts, on a per use basis, than single-use bags.

Other Related Resources:

Single Use Bag Pollution and Marine Debris:

Save Our Shores 
Santa Cruz Surfriders
Save the Bay
Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Statewide Single Use Bag Reduction efforts:

Californians Against Waste

Scientific studies in the Statewide Master Environmental Assessment:

Green Cities California

What can I do?
Just say NO to single-use carry out bags and Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB)!



Free viewers are required for some of the attached documents.
They can be downloaded by clicking on the icons below.

Download Acrobat Reader Download Flash Player Download QuickTime Download Windows Media Player Download Microsoft Silverlight Download Word Viewer Download Excel Viewer Download PowerPoint Viewer
Last updated: 4/9/2014 11:55:03 AM