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Reusable bag policy changing at San Diego stores due to coronavirus

Some grocery stores have banned customers from bringing their own bags, but are still charging them to use theirs.

SAN DIEGO — If you've visited a grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic, you may have noticed changes when it comes to bags. News 8 heard from several viewers who say some stores have banned customers from bringing their own, but are still charging them to use theirs.

The policy isn’t consistent depending on where you go.

Bringing a reusable bag from home to grocery shop is something many of us have grown accustomed to as a way to help the environment.

But, these days, in an effort to protect people's health, doing so is now banned at some places.

"The rationale is they do not want the introduction of possibly contaminated bags into their environment and that is certainly within reason," San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. 

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San Diego County health officials haven't outlawed reusable bags but did give stores the option to. And that's led to confusion.

News 8 has received several emails from viewers: 

"Why hasn't the local media noticed that grocery stores aren't allowing reusable bags but charging for their bags?" wrote one. 

Regarding Ralphs stores, another said: "Each store has a different bag policy."

News 8 reached out to three major chains: Vons, Ralphs and Trader Joe’s. 

Here's what each has implemented regarding bags:

Vons is asking customers to leave their bags at home; stores will provide ones free of charge.

Ralphs is also banning bags, but still charging people 10 cents apiece.

Trader Joe's isn't allowing reusable bags, but they too, are offering theirs for free. 

News 8 found several signs posted outside stores alerting customers to the change.

As for why some stores are charging, and others aren't, here's what a Ralphs spokesperson had to say:

"It is a law in California requiring grocers to charge for multi-use plastic bags as part of the state's ban on single-use plastic bags (Prop 67). There is currently a request into the Governor's office by the California Grocers Association to have this fee waived.

"I will reach out to those stores to ensure that they are charging for bags until we receive clearance from the state to waive the bag fees."

Meanwhile, other stores, like Vons and Trader Joe’s have decided to waive the fee on their own.

Keep in mind, there are places still allowing reusable bags.If that's where you shop, make sure you disinfect your bag before bringing it into a store.

And, if you find yourself shopping somewhere that is charging for bags and you don’t want to pay, you can always carry your stuff out in your hands or inside the cart.

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