I haven’t made the switch yet; what do I do?
To help ease the transition to reusable bags, retailers will have a transition period until July 1. Retailers will not be fined during the six-month grace period but should begin the transition now to coordinate supply-chain logistics to ensure compliance by July 1.
If I order thicker plastic bags, or compostable plastic bags, would I be in compliance?
The code does not permit plastic bags and was designed to discourage companies from just replacing thin plastic bags with thicker ones that create the same environmental problems.
In the code, a reusable bag is defined as “a bag that is specifically intended for multiple reuse and is made of cloth, fiber, or other machine washable fabric that is at least 2.25 mils thick and capable of carrying a minimum of 18 pounds with at least 75 uses per bag.”
What can I do to encourage customers to bring their own bags?
Some stores are giving customers incentives to bringing reusable bags—for example, putting customers in drawings for gift cards if they bring their own bags, or providing them with rewards or giveaways for bringing bags.
Some stores also have large reminder signs on doors or windows so customers don’t forget their bags in their cards.
You can find a number of helpful resources for communications in our Communications Toolkit
What can I do if customers forget their reusable bags?
Under our ordinance, you could provide paper bags. Our ordinance defines permissible bags as bags that are 100 percent recyclable and made from at least 40 percent recycled content.
You could also allow customers to take your leftover cardboard boxes.
Retailers also can sell of giveaway reusable tote bags to consumers.
Cuyahoga County and its partners are also planning a variety of bag giveaways beginning in mid-January. Please check back for further information.
Are there exemptions?
Yes. We encourage retailers to review our rules because there are limited exemptions.
For example, retailers who provide curbside pickup can place items in plastic.
Restaurants and bakeries have broad exemptions.
There are also limited exemptions—for example, for drycleaners who use bags for returned items and pharmacists dispensing prescription drugs.
Also, please note that stores that aren’t allowed to provide plastic bags at the checkout still can make plastic bags available within their stores for certain products. For example, plastic bags are still permitted for prepared foods, bakery items, flowers and bulk items like meats, produce and deli foods.
The ban does not address packaged single-use plastic bags, such as food storage bags, trash bags and pet waste bags.
Are there penalties for violating the ban?
Yes. Our code says stores may receive a written warning on first violation. If they don’t become compliant, they could be fined $100 for a first violation and $500 for a subsequent violation.
If you sell plastic bags after Jan. 1, 2021, you may receive a reminder from the Department of Consumer Affairs. But official warnings don’t start until after the grace period ends July 1, 2021.
If you encounter a problem in making the changeover or if you have questions about the legislation, please contact
the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Am I required to charge fees for paper bags?
The ordinance is silent on fees. Stores can charge fees for paper bags if they choose—or not. It’s up to you.
My store has plastic bags in the produce, deli and prepared foods section. Are those illegal under the ban?
No. The bag ban exempts, or allows exceptions for, plastic bags used for bulk items (like fruits, veggies and flowers) and prepared food. That means plastic bags, used for those purposes, are still legal for stores to provide to customers.
I am a retailer in Cleveland. How does this affect me?
Cleveland passed legislation to exempt the city from the plastic bag ban and delay enforcement until July 1.