Plastic Bag Ban and Reusable Bag Program

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the status of the lawsuit?
The City of Manhattan Beach was sued by the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition,” whose members include plastic bag manufacturers and distributors. The petitioners asserted that the City should have complied with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by conducting a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prior to adopting the plastic bag ban.

In order to address CEQA, the City conducted an Initial Study (which did consider the environmental impacts of the project) prior to adopting the ordinance and concluded that the project would not have significant harmful environmental impacts by adopting a Negative Declaration.  For background purposes, not all, and in fact relatively few, projects that must comply with CEQA require a full EIR.

On February 20, 2009, a judge with the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that the City must conduct the EIR before the bag ban may be implemented.  The City decided to appeal this decision, and on Earth Day 2010 the California Supreme Court announced it would hear our appeal.

The oral argument of the case was heard on Wednesday, May 4, 2011. To review the summary of actions for this case, please visit the Supreme Court Docket website. To view copies of legal documents that have been submitted for this case, please visit the Plastic Bag Laws website.  

Just over two months after the oral hearing, the City of Manhattan Beach prevailed in its effort to ban plastic bags! On July 14, 2011 a unanimous California Supreme Court decision ruled that:

“Substantial evidence and common sense support the city’s determination that its ordinance would have no significant environmental effect. Therefore, a negative declaration was sufficient to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).” 

This is a tremendous victory for a community that sought to ban plastic bags in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic trash in the coastal and marine environment. A sincere thank you to all those that have supported this effort.

What does this mean for businesses in Manhattan Beach?
The Supreme Court's decision reinstates the City's 2008 plastic bag ordinance (PDF). Beginning January 14, 2012 all grocery stores and pharmacies will need to comply with the ordinance. However, enforcement of the ordinance will not begin until April 14, 2012, which means there is a 3-month transition from the implementation date before the ordinance is enforced to give your business enough time to prepare and purchase recycled content paper bags that meet the ordinance requirements. All other establishments (i.e. retail, other commercial establishments and non-profit vendors) in the City of Manhattan Beach will be required to comply with the plastic bag ordinance beginning on July 14, 2012. As of May 2, 2014 restaurants are once again included in the plastic bag ordinance.

Does Ordinance 14-0004 remove the exemption for restaurants? 
Yes, Ordinance 14-0004 removes the exemption for restaurants, meaning that all food vendors in the City of Manhattan Beach will once again be required to comply with the City's plastic bag ordinance. The City’s prohibition of the distribution of plastic carry-out bags does not supersede the California Retail Food Code, or any other State or Federal law. The City's ordinance does not prohibit any business affected by the plastic bag ban from complying with the Retail Food Code or any other State or Federal law. However, the City's ordinance is an environmental regulation that deals with single-use plastic bags, not with food safety. The plastic bag ordinance applies to retail food establishments such as traditional restaurants, food trucks, catering services, etc. Restaurants will have until June 15, 2014 before enforcement of the ordinance begins to allow time to transition to bags made of alternate materials to comply with the ordinance. Please refer to the Letter to Manhattan Beach Businesses (PDF) for more information. 

What if my business has already eliminated plastic bags?
The City of Manhattan Beach would like to sincerely thank those businesses that have already eliminated plastic bags and who are encouraging their customers to bring their own reusable bags.  If your business has eliminated plastic bags, we would like to highlight that information on our website.  Please contact Dana Murray, Environmental Programs Manager at (310) 802-5508.

Were all plastic bags included in the original ban passed by the City Council?
Yes, all plastic bags distributed at the point-of-sale for carrying purchased goods home were included in the ban. This includes compostable and biodegradable point-of-sale plastic bags. Plastic bags distributed within a grocery store for the purpose of carrying produce to the check-out were not included in the ban. Plastic bags used to cover dry cleaning items were not included in the ban. 

Why were compostable and biodegradable bags included in the ban? 
A growing number of plastic products are reaching the market that claim to be "compostable" or "biodegradable," including shopping bags, trash bags and pet-waste bags. In some cases they may be a preferred environmental alternative to petroleum-based plastics, but this issue is not a simple one. Most of these compostable or biodegradable plastics, sometimes called "bioplastics," are made from plant starches and designed to break down only in carefully controlled composting conditions, such as a commercial composting facility. However, we do not have a commercial composting facility in Southern California. These products are not designed to break down in a landfill where daily cover prevents light, sun, and air from reaching the disposed products. They are also not designed to break down quickly in the environment, especially in cold ocean temperatures.

What is a Recyclable Paper Bag?
According to the Plastic Bag Ordinance (Municipal Code section 5.88.010, Chapter 5.88), a recyclable paper bag is a paper bag that meets all of the following requirements:

  1. contains no old growth fiber;
  2. is 100% recyclable overall and contains a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content; and
  3. displays the words “reusable” and “recyclable” in a highly visible manner on the outside of the bag.  

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