Chapter 6-7


6-7.100    Intent and finding.

6-7.101    Definitions.

6-7.102    Ban on plastic bags and store charge for single-use carryout bags and plastic reusable bags.

6-7.103    Implementation.

6-7.104    Exemptions allowing single-use bags.

6-7.105    Violations.

6-7.100 Intent and finding.

The Watsonville City Council finds and declares that:

(a)    It is the intent of the City of Watsonville in enacting this chapter to eliminate the common use of plastic single-use carryout bags, encourage the use of reusable bags by consumers and retailers, and to reduce the consumption of single-use bags in general.

The City of Watsonville makes the following findings:

(1)    Globally, an estimated five hundred billion (500,000,000,000) to one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) petroleum-based plastic bags are used each year, which equals over one million (1,000,000) per minute, the production and use of which uses over twelve million (12,000,000) barrels of oil. The California Integrated Waste Management Board estimates that Californians use nearly twenty billion (20,000,000,000) single-use plastic bags per year and discard over one hundred (100) plastic bags per second. Further, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only five (5%) percent of the plastic bags in California and nationwide are currently recycled.

(2)    The production and disposal of plastic bags cause significant environmental impacts, including contamination of the environment, the deaths of thousands of marine animals through ingestion and entanglement, widespread litter and debasement of the urban environment, and increased waste disposal costs.

(3)    Most plastic carryout bags do not biodegrade, but instead persist in the environment for hundreds of years; rather than breaking down, they slowly break up through abrasion, tearing, and photodegradation into toxic plastic bits that contaminate soil and water, while entering the food web when animals inadvertently ingest these materials. Toxic substances present in plastics are known to cause death or reproductive failure in fish, shellfish, wildlife, and in the humans ingesting the fish.

(4)    Plastic bits absorb dangerous compounds such as dichlorodiphenyl/dichloroethylene (DDE), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), and other toxic materials present in ocean water. Plastics have been found to concentrate these toxic chemicals at levels of up to one million (1,000,000) times the levels found in seawater. Plastic bits have displaced plankton in the Pacific Gyre.

(5)    The U.S. Marine Mammal Commission estimates that two hundred fifty-seven (257) marine species have been reported entangled in or having ingested marine debris. Plastic can constrict the animals’ movements or block their digestive system, killing the animals through starvation, exhaustion, or infection from deep wounds caused by tightening material.

(6)    According to Save Our Shores, a Santa Cruz based marine conservation nonprofit that conducts beach, river, and inland cleanups in the coastal regions of Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Monterey Counties, from June 2007 to May 2011 they conducted over four hundred (400) cleanups where volunteers removed a total of twenty-six thousand (26,000) plastic bags. Unchecked, this material would have likely entered the marine environment of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

(7)    Plastic bags returned to supermarkets may be recycled into plastic lumber; however, a very low percentage of bags are actually returned. Recycling bags into lumber does not reduce the impact of making new plastic carryout bags.

(8)    Compostable plastic carryout bags, as currently manufactured, do not solve the problems of wildlife damage, litter, or resource use addressed by this chapter. Compostable carryout bags are designed to remain intact until placed in a professional compost facility, so they do not degrade quickly as litter or in a marine environment. Producing compostable bags consumes nearly as much fossil fuel as noncompostable bags. Mixing compostable bags with regular plastic bags prevents recycling or composting either of them. Therefore, there is no exemption in this chapter for compostable carryout bags.

(9)    Reusable bags are readily available from numerous sources and vendors. Many grocery and other retail establishments throughout the City of Watsonville already offer reusable bags.

(10)    This chapter recognizes that there are energy and environmental consequences of using paper bags. While paper bags do not have the end-of-use impacts of plastic bags, they may use comparable or more energy and resources to manufacture. For this reason, a store charge on paper bags is indicated, as an incentive to reduce their use and encourage reusable bags. Paper bags that contain a minimum of forty (40%) percent post-consumer recycled content have fewer negative impacts than virgin paper bags.

(11)    Paper shopping bags with forty (40%) percent post-consumer recycled content are easily available, and such bags are in wide use by City of Watsonville merchants.

(12)    State law currently prohibits local jurisdictions from placing fees on single-use checkout plastic bags. Therefore, several California cities have adopted or are pursuing a ban as the most effective remaining means to eliminate the impacts these plastic bags cause. State law does not prohibit jurisdictions from placing fees on paper bags.

(13)    The City of Watsonville has an obligation to protect the environment, the economy, and public health. The City of Watsonville has a waste reduction goal, which is to be reached by waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting.

(§ 1, Ord. 1284-12 (CM), eff. June 7, 2012)

6-7.101 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, certain words and phrases used are defined as follows:

(a)    “Carryout bags” shall mean bags provided by retailers to customers at the point of sale to hold customers’ purchases. “Carryout bags” do not include bags used to contain loose items prior to checkout, such as meat, produce, and bulk goods, and does not include prepackaged products.

(b)    “Single-use plastic bag” or “single-use plastic carryout bag” shall mean a single-use carryout bag of any size that is made from plastic and provided at the point of sale to customers by a retail establishment. Single-use plastic bags include both compostable and noncompostable carryout bags.

(c)    “Single-use paper bag” shall mean a checkout bag provided by a retail establishment at the point of sale that is made from paper and is not a reusable bag.

(d)    “Recyclable” shall mean material that can be sorted, cleansed, and reconstituted using the county’s available recycling collection programs for the purpose of using the altered form in the manufacture of a new product. Recycling does not include burning, incinerating, converting, or otherwise destroying sold waste.

(e)    “Reusable bag” shall mean any bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse, and is either (1) made of cloth or other washable woven fabric, or (2) made of durable material that is at least four (4) mils thick. A “reusable bag” may be made of recyclable plastic such as high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), or polypropylene.

(f)    “Retail establishment” or “retail store” shall mean all sales outlets, stores, shops, vehicles, or other places of business located within the City of Watsonville, which operate primarily to sell or convey goods directly to the ultimate consumer.

(g)    “Exempted uses” shall mean those point-of-purchase or delivery sales, which have received an exemption under Section 6-7.104 that allows the use of single-use bags.

(h)    “Restaurant” shall mean an establishment at a fixed location or a mobile vehicle where food or beverages are prepared and provided to consumers for consumption on the premises, for take-out, or by delivery.

(§ 1, Ord. 1284-12 (CM), eff. June 7, 2012, as amended by § 1, Ord. 1302-14 (CM), eff. April 24, 2014)

6-7.102 Ban on plastic bags and store charge for single-use carryout bags and plastic reusable bags.

(a)    No retail establishment shall provide plastic carryout bags to customers at the point of sale, except as permitted in this chapter.

(b)    Single-use paper carryout bags provided to customers shall contain a minimum of forty (40%) percent post-consumer recycled paper fiber, and be recyclable in the City of Watsonville’s curbside recycling program.

(c)    During the period of time starting on the date that the ordinance codified in this chapter takes effect and continuing for one (1) year thereafter, retail establishments shall charge a minimum ten ($0.10) cent fee for each single-use paper checkout bag provided to customers at the point of sale. At the completion of the initial one (1) year period established by this subsection, the charge shall increase to a minimum twenty-five ($0.25) cents per bag provided. Retail establishments shall keep annual records of paper bag distribution to be made available to the Director of Public Works or designee upon request. The records shall be evaluated annually for the first five (5) years by the City to ensure the effectiveness of this chapter. If it is determined that single-use paper bag or plastic reusable bag use has increased beyond anticipated levels, the City Council shall consider increasing the store charge to improve the effectiveness of this chapter.

(d)    The charge imposed pursuant to this section shall not be applied to customers participating in the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children, the State Department of Social Services Food Stamps program, or other government subsidized purchase programs for low-income residents. Stores shall provide paper or reusable bags without charge to these customers.

(e)    Notwithstanding the prohibition set forth in subsection (a) of this section, single-use paper or plastic carryout bags may be distributed without charge by restaurants for the transportation of food or beverages that are provided to customers for consumption on the premises, for take-out, or by delivery.

(f)    The ban on single-use plastic bags and the charge on single-use paper bags would not apply to plastic or paper bags used to protect produce, meat, or otherwise used to protect items as they are put into a carryout bag at checkout. Other 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 or paper bags to protect greeting cards.

(g)    Retail establishments are strongly encouraged to make reusable bags available for sale to customers at a reasonable price. Reusable bags which meet the requirements of this chapter may be distributed without charge during limited-duration promotional events.

(h)    Retail establishments shall indicate on the customer transaction receipt the number of carryout bags provided, and the total amount charged for those bags.

(i)    City of Watsonville contractors and special events promoters, and their vendors, shall not provide single-use plastic carryout bags to participants while performing under a City of Watsonville contract or permit.

(§ 1, Ord. 1284-12 (CM), eff. June 7, 2012, as amended by § 1, Ord. 1302-14 (CM), eff. April 24, 2014)

6-7.103 Implementation.

(a)    No less than sixty (60) days before the ordinance codified in this chapter is enforced, the City of Watsonville shall post, mail or deliver a copy of it to retail establishments within the City of Watsonville.

(b)    The City of Watsonville will distribute to each store a reproducible placard designed to inform shoppers of the City of Watsonville of this chapter.

(§ 1, Ord. 1284-12 (CM), eff. June 7, 2012)

6-7.104 Exemptions allowing single-use bags.

(a)    The Director of Public Works, or the Director’s designee, may exempt a retail establishment from the requirement set forth in Section 6-7.102 for a one (1) year period upon the retail establishment showing, in writing, that this chapter would create an undue hardship or practical difficulty not generally applicable to other persons in similar circumstances. The decision to grant or deny an exemption shall be in writing, and the Director’s or the Director’s designee’s decision shall be final.

(b)    An exemption application shall include all information necessary for the Director of Public Works or the Director’s designee to make a decision, including but not limited to documentation showing factual support for the claimed exemption.

(c)    The Director of Public Works or Director’s designee may approve the exemption application in whole or in part, with or without conditions.

(§ 1, Ord. 1284-12 (CM), eff. June 7, 2012)

6-7.105 Violations.

(a)    The Director of Public Works, or designee, shall have primary responsibility for enforcement of this chapter and shall have authority to issue citations for violation of this chapter. The Director, or designee, is authorized to establish regulations or administrative procedures to ensure compliance with this chapter.

(b)    Violation of this chapter is hereby declared to be a public nuisance. Any violation described in subsection (a) of this section shall be subject to abatement by the City of Watsonville, as well as any other remedies that may be permitted by law for public nuisances, and may be enforced by injunction, upon a showing of violation.

(c)    A violation of this chapter is an infraction.

(d)    The City of Watsonville may enforce the provisions of this chapter under Chapter 1-2.

(§ 1, Ord. 1284-12 (CM), eff. June 7, 2012)