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What makes a plastic bag reusable?

Flickr user: Day Donaldson

Single-use plastic bags have been banned in San Luis Obispo County since 2012, requiring retailers to instead supply their customers with paper bags for ten cents, among other rules.

However, some Central Coast stores give plastic bags to their customers, despite San Luis Obispo County the bag ordinance. 

In some cases, plastic bags are considered 'reusable,' and some of these bags are showing up in local stores.

Bill Worrell, Manager of the Integrated Waste Management Authority, said the stores decide whether to supply reusable bags.

"A reusable bag is defined as something that's specifically designed and manufactured to be used many times, and it has to be machine washable or be able to be cleaned. It has to have no toxic materials in it, like paint," said Worrell. "If it's made out of plastic, it has to be at least 2.25 millimeters thick.

Worrell said he's received calls about these plastic bags and whether the providers are complying with the ordinance. Walmart and Haggen stores in San Luis Obispo County supply their customers with the reusable bags Worrell describes.

Haggen spokesperson Deborah Pleva told KCBX the plastic bags they use are "made in California from 100% recycled content, and are themselves completely recyclable."

Worrell said months ago, Target representatives contacted him to approve a type of reusable plastic bag for their stores in the county.

Target launched a reusable bag program in 2009 and gives guests a discount for each reusable bag used at purchase. Company representatives say nearly 200 million reusable bags have been used since they launched the program.

A referendum that will determine whether the statewide single-use plastic bag ban will stay in place, qualified to be on the 2016 ballot, but either way will not affect local bag bans.

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