Sonoma County shoppers take note: the next few months are likely the last to get plastic bags in grocery store checkout lines and at other retail shops.
A proposal to ban carryout plastic bags at those outlets and to levy a 10-cent fee on paper bags has reached the final set of government steps before officials weigh its approval this spring.
A draft environmental report is due out this week. After reviewing that report and accepting public comment, waste management officials could approve the study in April and adopt the countywide ordinance thereafter. A ban could be implemented this summer.
By that time, the regulation, now enacted in dozens of California cities and many counties, will be five years in the making for Sonoma County.
"This is an issue whose time has come," said Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire, who has promoted the proposal. "We are finally moving forward and taking action to ban plastic bags."
The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency would adopt the ordinance and enforce the ban.
The regulation is meant to shift consumers to reusable bags to reduce litter and address other environmental impacts. An estimated 300 million plastic and paper bags are used in Sonoma County every year.
The ordinance would cover local cities and the unincorporated county. It would affect a wide range of outlets, including grocery, clothing, hardware and drug stores, electronics vendors, convenience and liquor stores.
It would not extend to bags used to hold meat, vegetables or prescriptions, or apply to restaurants or stand-alone delicatessens, thrift stores or other nonprofit charitable operations. It would also not restrict the sale of plastic bags for trash and other uses.
The regulation would take on the established habits of shoppers who've favored plastic bags in checkout lines since the late 1970s.
Some said the switch, to paper bags for a fee or reusable totes, would be a hassle.