Come Wednesday, Santa Barbara shoppers can’t carry out their groceries in plastic bags.
The citywide ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect next Wednesday for supermarkets and stores with a pharmacy that are 10,000 square feet or larger. Stores can offer paper bags, with a 10-cent fee per bag, and reusable bags for sale. Customers can avoid any extra charge by bringing their own bags or taking their purchases directly to the car to unload in a basket or cart.
There are about 20 stores impacted by the first phase, according to the city.
Similar bans have been implemented all over California, and Santa Barbara’s ordinance was the model for a regional environmental impact report. It focuses on food stores such as supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and other stores that sell food items such as milk, bread, soda and snack foods. Bags used for produce, meat and fish are still allowed, as are plastic trash liners.
Local stores have been warning customers about the switch, and many customers already bring their own bags.
At Trader Joe’s on De la Vina Street, employees have been undergoing training for the new system and telling shoppers that the paper bags will cost 10 cents each starting next week. They’ll be free to customers on food assistance programs.
Crew member Josh Goldstein said that even before the ban, more and more people have been bringing in their own reusable bags for grocery shopping.
Longtime Santa Barbara resident Danielle Crowder brings her own bags and her own basket to stores. She has piles of reusable bags neatly stacked in her car for grocery store trips and even carries a mini reusable bag in her purse in case she forgets them.
“It’s very easy for me; it seems natural to do that,” she said.
Crowder is an early adopter for all things environmental, saying she also started recycling years before it became widespread.
“I’m the queen of recycling,” she said with a laugh.
The second phase of the citywide ban is set to go into effect Nov. 14, impacting smaller stores that have a small line of groceries.
Nearby, Carpinteria implemented its bag ban in late 2012 and took it a step further, banning paper bags as well.
An estimated 47.3 million single-use plastic bags are distributed every year in Santa Barbara and fewer than 5 percent of bags are recycled in California, according to the city.
The ordinance makes stores report to the city every year on the number of bags handed out, money taken in and any education efforts they implement.