Tuesday, September 24, 2013

City of Santa Fe Plans Ahead for the Plastic Bag Ban

On February 27, 2014 You Will Need to Bring Your Own Reusable Bags to the Store

nullThe City of Santa Fe Environmental Services Division is planning ahead as the plastic bag ban clock begins to tick. First, it is important to know and be reminded that the ban on plastic bags does not become effective until February 27, 2014. The next six months are to give Santa Fe residents, businesses, and City staff the time needed to plan and gear up for the changes. It is also important to remember that the ban on plastic bags is more than just a ban on the vast majority of plastic bags from being used at most retail establishments. It is also way for each of us to take one more step in protecting our fragile and beautiful environment.

Practical implementation... What does it mean for me... and how do I participate?

Residents at the Store:
Beginning February 27, 2014 you will need to bring your own reusable bag to the store. It's really quite simple, just pack up several reusable bags (any type of bag will do, cloth, paper, boxes too!) into your vehicle and, this is the tricky part, remember to take them with you into the store when you shop.
What if I, don't have a car, ride my bike, walk, or take the bus? Again it's simple, just put a few bags inside one bag and carry them in your back pack, purse, or hands. (Of course you have to figure out how to carry them out of the store and get home, but you would have to do the same with plastic bags...). If you forget your own bag, you can purchase a paper bag for 10 cents.

What if I receive government assistance (WIC or SNAP)? The establishment cannot charge you the ten cent fee and must provide you with bags, but you should have your own with you so that you can do your part to help the environment. The retail establishment must also have reusable bags available, either free of charge or for sale.

Business Owners:
I have a business in Santa Fe that provides goods for sale, what do I do? 
Again, it's pretty simple. You do not need to provide plastic bags for items sold, but you do need to have paper bags available for purchase in case your customer does not have their own bag. Your receipting system needs to show the cost of the bags and the quantity purchased.  Additionally, you need to have reusable bags available for purchase. What type or size or how much you charge for the bags is up to you. 

Who and what type of bag is exempt? And why?
There are some exceptions to the ban. Reusable bags are exempt, and they are defined as a bag with handles, is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is either made of cloth or other machine washable fabric, is made of durable plastic that is at least 2.25 mls thick or is made of another durable material suitable for reuse.

Other exemptions include:
  • Laundry dry cleaning bags, door-hanger bags, newspaper bags, or packages of multiple bags intended for garbage, pet waste, or yard waste;
  • Bags provided by pharmacists or veterinarians to contain prescription drugs or other medical necessities;
  • Bags used by restaurants to take away prepared food;
  • Bags used by a consumer inside a retail establishment to:
  • Contain bulk items, such as produce, nuts, grains, candy, or small hardware items;
  • Contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, or fish, whether or not prepackaged;
  • Contain or wrap flowers, potted plants or other items to prevent moisture damage to other purchases;
  • Contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods;
  • Bags used by a non-profit corporation or other hunger-relief charity to distribute food, grocery products, clothing, or other household items.
Why are they exempt from the new law?
The short answer is most of these bags are reusable, and the intent of the law is to do away with single use plastic bags. You know the ones; they end up as litter everywhere and are sometimes called New Mexico's new state flower.

The rest of the answer is about being practical and protecting human health. For instance, the bags we use in the produce department are designed to keep our produce away from other food items and other germs. Public health is also the reason that non-profits dedicated to hunger relief are also exempt. (Pharmacists, veterinarians and restaurants are exempt because they typically use much smaller bags, and their volume of use is less than grocery stores.)

Will there be a place to get reusable bags?
The Environmental Services Division will provide reusable bags to the general public at most special events on the Plaza or on specific days at libraries, the Water Division, and City Hall. Residential customers serviced through low income subsidies or who are qualified for special assistance can call the Environmental Services Division for delivery or pick them up at 1142 Siler Road.

What about education?
The Environmental Services Division will partner with local retail establishments and schools to provide public education prior to the actual implementation of the ban. 

How can I participate?
The best way to participate is to get reusable bags and become a part of the solution. Take your bags to the store and remind others to do the same thing! It really is easy.

Make the pledge to Recycle! Curbside recycling is easy and it is already included in your monthly garbage bill so why not?

Volunteer. We need your help, call the Environmental Services Division at 505-955-2200, Sustainable Santa Fe at 505-955-2262, or Keep Santa Fe Beautiful at 505-955-2215 and get involved. Help educate residents about reusable bags and how we can all do our part to protect our fragile environment.

For more information call Cindy Padilla, Environmental Services Division Director at 505-955-2209, Gilda Montano, Keep Santa Fe Beautiful 505-955-2215, or Katherine Mortimer, Sustainable Santa Fe at 505-955-2262.

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