Bag Ordinance

Are reusables sanitary, and is it safe for me to use them once they are allowed again? Yes, reusables are sanitary and safe to use when properly washed. Soap and hot water are effective at killing viruses and bacteria. Reusable grocery and produce bags can go in the washing machine with other laundry. For reusable food ware, home and commercial dishwashers are more effective relative to handwashing because of the added benefit of a prolonged wash cycle at high temperatures. As with non-reusables, be sure not to let your reusable cup touch the spigot or dispenser when filling up with water or coffee. Common sense and good hygiene practices are all you need to keep reusables sanitary and safe. 

Key Provisions bag ordinance poster
Retailer Assistance
Customer Outreach & Bag Distribution Dates
Documents & Ordinance
Frequently Asked Questions
Special Events Vendor Packet (Street Festivals)

Since Earth Day, April 22, 2013, customers must bring shopping bags from home or purchase a paper or reusable bag from retail stores and other places of business in Mountain View.  The City's ordinance preempts the State law adopted in 2015 and upheld by voters in 2016, but the provisions are similar. 

The minimum charge for a reusable or recycled-content paper bags remains at ten cents ($0.10) per bag effective January 1, 2015.  The amended ordinance was adopted by Mountain View City Council in September 2014 to eliminate an increase to $.25 per bag because the current $.10 bag charge has been sufficient to motivate shoppers to use reusable bags.    For the full ordinance, click here.

The Reusable Bag Ordinance was approved by City Council after considering an Environmental Impact Report in which Mountain View joined 24 other cities to study the effects of single-use plastic bags on the environment. The intent of the ordinance is to prevent harm to marine life, damage to stormwater utility systems, reduce litter and waste, and conserve natural resources. The Ordinance also supports the City to meet requirements to reduce plastic bags found in waterways under the Municipal Stormwater Permit issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The Ordinance focuses on customers to encourage shopping with reusable bags to save natural resources and reduce waste. In order to promote a shift to reusable bags, the Ordinance requires sellers to charge customers a minimum of ten cents on each recycled paper or reusable bag. Sellers use the revenue from the bag charges to pay for bags and help with record-keeping costs. Customers paying for goods with WIC or food stamp cards may be provided a recycled paper bag at no charge. 

Key Provisions

  • Affects establishments selling goods directly to customers, such as grocery stores, hardware stores, video stores, fabric stores, liquor stores, gift shops, farmer's markets, festivals, and clothing stores.
  • Exempts restaurants, fast-food businesses, charitable thrift stores and food pantries; and exempts stores providing services, such as dry cleaners, beauty shops and car washes unless they sell goods.
  • Single-use plastic carryout bags are banned (defined as less than 2.25 mil thick). Old supplies may be used as protective bags if handles are cut off (see definition).
  • Sellers may provide paper bags or reusable bags to customers for a minimum of ten cents ($.10) per bag (bag charge is non-taxable).  Fee Amendment in 2014 retained the $.10 bag charge.
  • Sellers must itemize the ten cent bag charge on the customer’s receipt if receipts are normally provided.
  • Sellers may exempt customers paying for goods with WIC coupons or food stamp cards from the ten cent bag charge.
  • Sellers retain the revenue from the bag charges to compensate for the cost of carryout bags and record-keeping requirements.
  • Sellers may not provide free carryout bags to customers after April 22, 2013, except as noted above. Sellers may provide carryout bags with a promotion that discounts other goods to compensate for the bag charges, e.g. buy 10 items and get a reusable bag.
  • Paper bags must be 100% recyclable, be made of 40% post-consumer content, be marked with the words “Recyclable and Reusable,” and show the manufacturers contact information.
  • Reusable bags must have handles and be made of machine-washable cloth or other durable plastic material (plastic at least 2.25 mil thick).
  • Sellers may provide protective paper or plastic bags at no charge to customers to transport goods within the store to the cashier, such as bags for meat, vegetables, greeting cards, bulk items, live fish, and medications dispensed by a pharmacy. Protective bags do not have handles. Old supplies of plastic carryout bags may be used for protective bags if the handles are cut off.
  • Sellers must retain records of bag supply purchase and bag charges for three years and make available to the City upon request.

Retailer Assistance

The City mailed a Retailer’s Toolkit with information and temporary signs to all retail businesses based on business licenses. In addition, City representatives visited stores to answer questions, provide technical assistance, window posters, decals, cashier tent signs, parking lot signs, and an information packet with tips for retailers, bag specifications and a list of bag suppliers. To schedule a store visit, please contact us at or call (650) 903-6311. The Retailer’s Toolkit, ordinance, and more information are available below under Documents.

Customer Outreach & Bag Distribution Dates

The City provided information to customers in April 2013 at festivals and at grocery stores throughout the City; and at meetings of the Council Neighborhood Committee.   For information about the ordinance, see documents below or contact us at, call (650) 903-6311.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)