Zero Waste Humboldt Aids County with Plastic Bag Ban

February, 2017



In November, California passed the first ever statewide ban on single-use carry out bags. Single-use plastics bring nothing good to the table. Unfortunately, plastics are the most popular packaging and transportation material for consumers.

Why? Because it has been marketed as “easy”. This so-called cultural convenience causes astounding negative impacts to our environment. There are also hidden costs associated with clogged storm drains and waste processing machinery. The Plastics Better Alternatives Now (BAN) list—put together by 5 Gyres, Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation and Upstream—identifies plastic bags as highly environmentally persistent with a high toxic accumulation potential. Plastic bags make up a whopping 11.8 percent of pollution in the environment.

For those who argue that plastics can be recycled, unfortunately that is not true. Nationwide, only 3 percent of plastic bags are actually recycled, according to The Plastics BAN List.
Banning the bag is a great achievement for our state!

What are the benefits of the new reusable bag law? 
For starters, eliminating plastic bags from California’s waste stream will help keep our coastline beautiful and our marine wildlife safe. It will also reduce costs to local governments by keeping storm drains and machinery clear. Who won’t benefit? Out-of-state corporations that manufacture single-use plastic bags.

Who has to comply?
There are more than 80 stores in Humboldt County’s unincorporated areas that are required to comply with the single-use carry out bag ban. Many stores have prepared in advance—such as Murphy’s Markets, Ray’s Food Place, Safeway, CVS, the North Coast Co-op and Wildberries—by eliminating plastic bags from their checkout areas, replacing them with paper bags and offering reusables for sale. Zero Waste Humboldt applauds the many individuals that have taken it upon themselves to bring their own bags to the grocery store.

Why is there a 10 cent charge?
Single-use plastic bags were never really free. Stores added cost of bags into price of groceries, which means that people who bring reusable bags were actually paying for other people’s wasteful bags. The 10 cent charge for paper bags will offset the cost to the grocers or retailers for purchasing paper or reusable bags. It will ensure that consumers who bring their own bags are not paying for others to waste. Lastly, it encourages California to move towards more sustainable materials.  

What is Zero Waste Humboldt doing in terms of implementation?
Our goal as an organization is to offer assistance and education to grocers, retailers and individuals. ZWH is preparing a multimedia public education platform with the help of students and professors from Humboldt State University. ZWH is also working with a cadre of local individuals to act as “Secret Shoppers”. These “Secret Shoppers” will visit stores in Humboldt County and track who is in compliance and who is not. In March 2017, Zero Waste Humboldt will publish a list of grocers and retailers that are in compliance with the new law, allowing individuals to make educated decisions about where to shop.


New Zero Waste Action Plan in Arcata

A final draft of the City of Arcata’s first ever Zero Waste Action Plan (ZWAPlan) was presented in a study session with city council, staff and members of the public on January 30. Prepared by city staff and Zero Waste Humboldt consultants Maureen Hart and Maggie Gainer, the ZWAPlan is both pragmatic and ambitious. It identifies ten major implementation goals for reducing waste in Arcata over the next ten years.

While the ZWAPlan is not mandated, it is consistent with a growing trend among cities committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the toxicity in our waste, with a greater emphasis on natural resource conservation and waste prevention. Zero Waste methodology is part of a growing trend toward sustainable materials management rather than landfill diversion.

Progress in achieving the ZWAPlan goals will rely on a team of business, school, community groups and HSU leaders working cooperatively with the City. For details, contact Zero Waste Humboldt or check for updates on the City’s website at



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