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California’s 10-cent grocery bag charge suspended amid virus

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Californians won’t be charged 10 cents per bag at the grocery store and retailers can again hand out thinner, single-use plastic bags under a temporary change brought in by an executive order signed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

It’s a change that retailers have wanted for weeks, as many major grocery chains have stopped letting customers bring in reusable bags over fears of spreading the new coronavirus.

California, which has some of the nation’s strictest laws aimed at reducing plastic waste, banned stores from handing out single-use plastic bags and required them to charge 10 cents for all paper and plastic bags several years ago. Newsom’s order suspends those rules for 60 days.

“For the time being, in the state of emergency, this is just a great relief” to store employees and customers, said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailer’s Association, which represents grocery chains like Safeway and Walmart as well as other major retailers.

The executive order also allows grocery stores to temporarily stop accepting recyclable bottles and cans, which they then transfer to recycling centers. Consumers will still be charged the deposit when they purchase the bottles.

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