Starting Jan. 1, retailers in San Jose and unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County were no longer using single-use plastic bags and paper bags without recycled content, as a city and county ordinance to ban the bags took effect.
Under the new policy, passed by the San Jose City Council in December 2010 and by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in April, only restaurants, nonprofits and social organizations can hand out the bags.
Proponents claim that a ban on plastic bags would lead to a cleaner environment, saving the city money in clean-up efforts.
Single-use bags litter roadsides, clog drainage systems, pollute local creeks and streams and harm wildlife, according to proponents of the ban.
Meanwhile opponents have said that the ordinance will hurt consumers and small businesses because they don't have the same buying power as the bigger stores.
The San Jose ordinance, proposed four years ago by San Jose Councilman Kansen Chu, permits retailers to provide single-use paper bags that contain a minimum of 40 percent recycled content.
They must charge shoppers a fee of 10 cents per bag, which would be increased to 25 cents in two years.
There would be exceptions for retailers that provide plastic or paper bags for items such as fresh produce, meat, or bulk goods.
Businesses in unincorporated areas will be allowed to use thin plastic liner bags for items including fresh produce, meat, frozen foods, prepared foods, bakery items, plants, prescription drugs and newspapers. However, regular plastic bags will not be allowed at checkout.
Retailers in unincorporated areas can sell customers single-use paper bags that are 100 percent recyclable and contain a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer waste at a cost of 15 cents each.
In response to the new ordinance, Pet Food Express announced last week the business will reduce the cost of its reusable bags to 49 cents and donate 100 percent of the money collected in the sale of reusable bags to San Jose Animal Care and Services.
The fundraiser will be in effect at all three Pet Food Express stores in San Jose between Jan. 1 and April 1.
Pet Food Express will also have paper bags available for 10 cents that are at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled.
Michael Levy, founder of Pet Food Express, said the fundraiser would directly go toward helping homeless animals in San Jose.
"We realize the ban is going to be a major adjustment for people shopping in San Jose, and we wanted to find a way to help them in the transition by reducing the price of our reusable bags," Levy said in a statement.
—By Bay City News Service