Alameda County has acted on plastic bags. Photo: Polandeze/Creative Commons.

The Alameda County Waste Authority voted Wednesday to ban the use of plastic bags at pharmacies and grocery stores county-wide, starting in 2013.

The authority, which also goes by the name, also voted to require businesses and multi-family dwellings to recycle all “high-market value materials,” as part of an initiative to reduce waste going the landfill.

The plastic bag ban will apply to 2,000 stores around the county. The ban does not include restaurants or retail stores. Stores can provide customers with paper or reusable bags, but must charge 10 cents for them.

“Setting restrictions on single-use bag distribution will help local jurisdictions meet their storm water permit and litter control requirements at lower costs and reduce environmentally harmful trash in storm drains and creeks,” the authority said in a press release. “Despite voluntary efforts to promote reusable bags countywide for several years, plastic bags comprised 9.6% of litter collected during coastal cleanup days (based on 2008 data) in Alameda County.”

Berkeley may soon see a more restrictive law. City Councilmember Kriss Worthington plans to urge the city to enact its own ban on plastic bags, but one that also applies to retail stores. The City Council will discuss the matter at its Jan. 31 meeting.

The mandatory recycling law adopted Wednesday will require businesses and multifamily structures that generate more than four cubic yards per week of solid waste to not only recycle newspapers and cardboard, but compostable materials, like food. The current California law does not stipulate which materials should be recycled.

Will Berkeley pass a plastic bag ban soon? [01.25.12]

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...