Beginning Jan. 1, Alameda County will join a growing number of locales trying to rid their cities of plastic bags. As a result, shoppers will have to bring their own sacks or pay for them.
Stores started warning shoppers in early December that the new rule requires food stores to charge a dime per bag instead of handing them out to customers, except for those shoppers who receive food assistance from WIC or CalFresh food assistance.
A cashier at a Smart & Final store in Old Oakland told people in the checkout line to hold Alameda County responsible for the regulation.
However, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, made up of 17 elected officials from the county's 14 city councils and the Board of Supervisors, passed the ordinance in January 2012.
By opting in, they substantially increased the number of jurisdictions in California with a plastic bag ordinance, according to StopWaste.org, which is the administrative arm of the authority.
The regulation is often called a ban. Instead, the "price signal" is supposed to encourage fewer plastic bags in circulation by requiring any stores selling packaged or fresh food to provide a recyclable paper bag or a reusable bag at a minimum charge of 10 cents.
The reusable bag could be made from plastic if it is 2.25 millimeters thick, which makes it more durable than the usual ones now in use.
The stores, which already pay for the bags they provide to customers for free, would keep the income from the surcharge.
Sit-down and takeout restaurants, clothing retailers and other stores selling things not related to food are exempt.
Violators could face a fine of up to $1,000.
Staff members from each city and county must first approve citations for violations within their jurisdictions. San Jose and San Francisco were among the first and largest cities in the Bay Area with programs to cut down on plastic bags, a trend that has expanded to 51 cities and counties.
The ordinances faced the stiffest opposition from Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a group of manufacturers and distributors of plastic carryout bags. The group filed 27 pages of critical comments and objections to the ordinance and threatened to sue if the county adopted the ban or anything similar to it.
The coalition tried to water down San Francisco's plastic bag regulation with an unsuccessful lawsuit but managed in the past to soften bans by excluding restaurant use of carryout plastic bags.
So far, the group has not sued Alameda County or StopWaste.org.
For more information about the regulation, go to StopWaste.org.