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Rules to Curb Use of Paper and Plastic Shopping Bags

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Bill Hoffman, owner of Aptos Jewelers in Aptos, Calif., sells bracelets, rings and pendants for thousands of dollars each. He balks at the notion of charging customers an extra 10 cents for a shopping bag, but Mr. Hoffman has no choice. It is the law.

Not just in Santa Cruz County, where Aptos is, but similar rules apply in more than two dozen California cities. Grocery stores, pharmacies and sometimes other retailers are no longer allowed to use plastic shopping bags and must charge customers for paper ones. Fees typically are 5 or 10 cents, and are aimed at nudging people to carry reusable bags when they shop.

California legislators have pushed for a statewide fee of up to 10 cents, coupled with a ban on plastic bags. The concept is sweeping across the most populous state two years after the District of Columbia adopted a 5-cent charge for paper and plastic. Similar laws are popping up in communities across the country.

But for consumers, it is also developing into something more than an environmental movement - it has become a kind of referendum of shopping culture at the cash register. 


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