Calif. County Limits Bags, Mandates Certain Recycling

Alameda County, Calif., has passed laws limiting single-use bags and requiring recycling of certain materials.

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA) adopted the two ordinances to reduce waste and litter, stimulate the local economy and create jobs.

The county includes Oakland and Berkeley, and has a population of more than 1.5 million.

The first ordinance prohibits free distribution of single-use bags at checkout in stores that sell packaged food. Retailers have to charge a minimum of 10 cents per bag to provide recycled content paper or reusable bags, according to a county news release.

The second ordinance requires recycling of high market-value materials from larger businesses and multi-family properties. California law requires larger businesses (four cubic yards of garbage service per week and above) and multi-family properties of five units or more to obtain recycling service. Alameda County’s new ordinance builds on the state law by specifying which materials need to be recycled and by requiring an adequate level of recycling service.

Individual jurisdictions within the county are able to opt out of either ordinance through a governing board resolution by March 2.

“Alameda County buries $100 million of resources every year,” said Gary Wolff, executive director of, which comprises ACWMA and the county Source Reduction and Recycling board operating as one entity. The county expects up to 1,500 local jobs to be created as a result of the recycling ordinance.

Both ordinances are part of StopWaste.Org’s 2010 Strategic Plan, which included a goal that by 2020 less than 10 percent of solid wastes landfilled would be materials that are easily recycled or composted.

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