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Reusable Bag Ordinance
Colorful Reusable Bags Car SeatBreak the Bag Habit!
Save The Bay estimates that over one million plastic bags enter the Bay each year. Up to 90% of floating debris is plastic, and that plastic never biodegrades.

The bags entangle, suffocate, and poison at least 267 known animal species worldwide. All of this damage for only an average use of 12 minutes. (Source: Save the Bay) 

Paper bags also have a negative environmental impact. The Final Program Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) states that paper bags may “have greater impacts related to air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality (from manufacturing) than plastic bags if the same quantity is used.”  

City Council Adopts Ordinance! Update as of May 2013
On May 6, 2013, City Council unanimously voted to adopt the reusable bag ordinance.

Implementation: June 6, 2013
Implementation begins on June 6, 2013 in the City of San Mateo. The City of San Mateo and the County of San Mateo will educate and provide opportunities for retailers and grocers to comply with the reusable bag ordinance. Also, delis that have not already made the switch to non-polystyrene containers will have time to use their stock of polystyrene before enforcement in the City of San Mateo commences.


Retail shoppers will have the option of bringing their own reusable bags. Retailers will charge a minimum of $.10 for a requested recycled paper bag or reusable bag. Exemptions apply for restaurants and nonprofit charitable organizations, as well as businesses that use produce and meat bags, garment cleaning bags and pharmaceutical bags. Please read San Mateo County’s ordinance and fact sheet for full details.

Community Resources
Award-Winning Movie: "Bag It! The Movie: Is Your Life Too Plastic?" - Playing in June and July
Top 10 Tips for "Healthy" & Long-Lasting Reusable Bags
Top 5 Reasons to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag!)

Business Resources
Businesses should have received the following signs in a mailer earlier in April. If you didn't, please simply print up the signage from the links below or call us to send you new signage. We have the signage in English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and Tagalog. If you have other ideas for customer education, email Jonathan Strange by email at .


Reusable Bag Ordinance Video!
Watch the County's animation video of the environmental impacts of single use plastic bags and paper bags! Thanks to the talented students of San Jose State who created this educational video.

Working with our Business Community

Our team continues to reach out to our business community to explain the purpose of both the reusable bag ordinance and polystyrene ban, and the tools we can provide to help businesses communicate these changes to their customers. We have found that many of our businesses are already in the practice of using more environmentally friendly packaging.

If you will just be starting out, our team can visit your business to take questions from your management team or staff. Just call us at (650) 522-7300 or email Jonathan Strange at .

  • The topic of reusable bags was first presented to Council by staff on March 5, 2012. Please read the administrative report and the minutes. Based on Council feedback, staff proceeded to take steps to join our County, Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco, and Woodside in implementing a regional reusable bag ordinance. (Millbrae implemented in 2012.)
  • The reusable bag ordinance was introduced to Council on April 15, 2013, and City Council unanimously voted to support the ordinance.
  • The reusable bag ordinance was adopted by City Council on May 6, 2013.
More Information
City of San Mateo's Reusable Bag Ordinance (references County ordinance)
County of San Mateo’s Reusable Bag Ordinance
Reusable Bag Ordinance: Fact Sheet
County of San Mateo's Reusable Bag Environmental Document
City of San Mateo's Reusable Bag Ordinance Notice of Intent (NOI) 
City of San Mateo's Reusable Bag Ordinance Negative Declaration 
County of San Mateo’s Polystyrene Ban Ordinance
Polystyrene Ban: "Green" Vendor Listing

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