Shoppers at Richmond stores must bring their own reusable bags or pay a fee for paper ones thanks to a new law banning plastic bags, effective Jan. 1.
Starting Wednesday, local retail and grocery stores will stop offering single use plastic bags to customers.
Stores will now be required to charge a 5-cent fee for paper bags, a charge that will increase to 10 cents in two years. City officials are encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags.
The new ordinance applies to clothing stores, grocery and liquor stores, convenience markets and specialty shops. Restaurants are exempt.
Merchants who don’t comply with the new ordinance will be fined $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second within a 24-consecutive month period, and $1,000 for the third.
Sopheap Yin, owner of Richmond’s Grocery Outlet, said the staff is prepping for the change. The store plans to provide free paper bags to its food stamp customers.
“I think its good because I’m getting tired of seeing plastic bags littered on the freeway,” Yin said. “We are ready but you never know until the live action comes. I know the first two days will be very disappointing for some people because (using plastic bags) has been a habit for a long time. But we are up for that challenge.”
Richmond is joining a growing list of cities throughout California that have passed similar plastic bag bans in recent years. While Richmond was the first city in Contra Costa County to approve such a law, San Pablo, El Cerrito and Pittsburg have since adopted similar laws.
The new plastic bag ban caught some Richmond residents by surprise.
“I think stores should inform customers a lot better,” said Deyong Holllman.
“I don’t understand why the city is mandating such a law, but whatever is necessary to save the environment, I’m with it.”
Abdo Alghazaoi of Richmond’s Tobacco World said he’s ok with going green but thinks there are other ways to help the environment.
“Most of my customers like the bags and reuse them for other things,” Alghazaoi said.
“Richmond is trying out a lot of things and trying to say ahead of everybody. Some people may be used to it because it’s been implemented in other cities, but for some it will be quite a surprise.”