City partners with Clean Water Program for Bag Give Away at Pak ‘N Save

February 24, 2013

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority’s single-use plastic bag ban went into effect on January 1, 2013.  In response, the Clean Water Program ( provided stylish reusable bags for give-away events staged all around the County over the past couple weeks.

At the Emeryville Pak N Save, the Friday before the Super Bowl, 230 of these reusable bags just about flew off our table.  To say the bags were well-received is an understatement!

Chinook Book also donated 120 of their popular sustainable product coupon books to give away to customers (normally a $20 value!).

Encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags is one way to reduce litter that harms wildlife, clogs storm drains and just looks bad.  Each year, the equivalent of 100,000 kitchen garbage bags worth of litter end up in our local waterways, including an estimated 1 million disposable plastic bags.

In Alameda County storm water does not pass through a water treatment plant. This means that litter and other pollutants carried into the storm drain system by wind and water flow directly into creeks and the Bay, where they harm fish, marine mammals and birds.  Plastic bags and other lightweight plastic litter don’t biodegrade and are particularly hazardous because they float, entangling and poisoning marine wildlife that mistakes the items for food.

In addition to its environmental impacts, litter is also an eyesore and puts a heavy financial burden on communities. Alameda County jurisdictions spend approximately $24 million every year on litter and storm drain cleanup.

Under the Federal Clean Water Act, cities in the Bay Area are required to reduce or eliminate storm water pollution by 40% by 2014, and by 70% by 2017. This ban is expected to go a long way toward reaching those goals.

Bags sold as “reusable” must meet certain specifications, such as being at least 2.25 mls thick, have a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, capable of carrying 22 lbs. or 15 liters over a distance of 75 ft. and be machine washable or made from a material that can be cleaned or disinfected.  Retailers must charge at least 10 cents for paper or reusable bags. All proceeds from the sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags are retained by the retailer with no restrictions on their use.

If you missed us at Pak ‘N Save, we’ll have more reusable bags to give away at the City of Emeryville’s  Earth Day event at Doyle Hollis Park on Saturday April 20, 2013.

For more information about the ordinance go to:

Marcy Greenhut is Project Manager of Solid Waste Programs in Emeryville.

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