California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Plastics Waste Management

At-Store Recycling Program: Plastic Carryout Bags

Plastic carryout bags

Reports due April 1, 2013.

Paper, plastic, or cloth bags? It is a decision all Californians need to make with a purchase. But now Californians who choose to consume plastic carryout bags have additional opportunities to ensure the bags are recycled. California has mandated, through the At-Store Recycling Program, that plastic carryout bag recycling drop-off bins be made available at all regulated supermarkets and large retail stores with a pharmacy.

Through this program, participating stores are required to place recycling bins in a readily accessible location for consumers, assure the collected bags are recycled, and provide reusable bags. Additionally, stores track the collection, transport, and recycling of plastic carryout bags and regulated manufacturers provide educational materials to assist in recycling (see requirements). To review the complete law and regulations, please visit Public Resources Code Division 30 Part 3 Section 42250 and California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Division 7, Chapter 4, Article 6.

As of July 2007, stores and bag manufacturers are implementing this program to reduce the plastic bag burden on the environment. A large amount of this plastic is accumulating in waterways and landscapes around the world, including the Pacific Ocean’s Gyre (also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

Plastic bags are also accumulating in landfills. In the United States, an estimated 8.4 billion pounds of plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are consumed and disposed of yearly.* Although each plastic grocery and merchandise bag is composed of only a small amount of plastic, approximately 247 million pounds are annually disposed in California landfills.** Through increased accessibility of recycling and reusable bags at stores, this program aims to reduce the impact of plastic bag waste.

Model Report

To assist operators or designated reporting parties with the reporting requirements, a model report and series of data sheets have been developed. Using the model report and data sheets will ensure that the proper information is provided while streamlining the reporting process to meet the annual April 1 final filing date. These tools which can be submitted with your information include:

  1. Operator Certification and Designation Model Report (PDF, 71 KB | Word, 42 KB, 42 KB) (Updated 1/4/2012)
  2. Plastic Carryout Bag Purchase Model Data Sheet (PDF, 198 KB | Word, 141 KB) (Updated 1/4/2012)
  3. Plastic Carryout Bag/Plastic Film Model Data Sheet (PDF, 183 KB | Word, 85 KB) (Updated 1/4/2012)

Additional compliance information is available.

*United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste, “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2007 Facts and Figures" (Adobe PDF, 5.8 MB). 
** The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, “California 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study.”

Last updated: March 12, 2013
Plastic Recycling http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Plastics/
Contacts: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Plastics/Contacts.htm