On September 25, 2012 the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, in an effort to reduce litter and protect our local and marine environment, enacted an ordinance amending Chapter 5.48 to the Santa Cruz County Code to prohibit the use of plastic bags by County restaurants.


Bag Reduction Ordinance For Restaurants Effective April 22, 2013

  • Restaurants and other businesses may no longer provide plastic carryout bags to customers within the unincorporated area of the County of Santa Cruz.
  • Restaurants may provide paper bags to their customers without charge.

The full text of the ordinance is available here.


You may also contact the Department of Public Works for more information at (831) 454-2160 or dpw131@co.santa-cruz.ca.us.



Frequently Asked Questions about the Bag Reduction Ordinance


Why is the County doing this?

Single-use bags are among the most common components of litter on county roads, parks, beaches and elsewhere.  Cleanup efforts are expensive, and single-use bags are a waste of valuable resources.  Plastic bags pollute county waterways, endanger wildlife and take up scarce space in the County’s landfill.


Why not charge a fee for both plastic and paper bags?

A state law, AB2449, enacted in 2007, prohibits charging for plastic bags.


Why not just encourage better recycling?

The County does support recycling, but still the majority of single-use bags are not recycled.


What are the cities doing?

The cities of Watsonville, Capitola, Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz are all considering similar ordinances.


What about the environmental documents?

The Mitigated Negative Declaration and supporting documents are available online.


Why is the County adding restaurants?

Although plastic bag litter has decreased since the original ordinance went into effect in March of 2012, plastic bags continue to be a problem in our community, especially along the shores of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. Local environmental organization Save Our Shores reports that during recent cleanup events, large numbers of plastic bags and plastic pieces were still found along County beaches, many of them from local food service establishments.


If I still have plastic bags in stock, can I use them after April 22, 2013?

No, any use of plastic bags after March 20, other than those permitted by the ordinance, will be subject to fines.


What records do I have to provide to the County?

Businesses should keep records of bag use, to be provided to the County upon request. No records need to be submitted unless you are asked for them.




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© 2012 County of Santa Cruz, Department of Public Works, Recycling and Solid Waste Services