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Ban on most single-use plastic bags in effect in Las Cruces

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The City of Las Cruces’ single-use plastic bag ordinance went into effect Jan. 1, with a goal of abating “the nuisance that has been caused through the rapid and growing increase of single-use plastic bags in the city,” the city said in a news release.

The ordinance prohibits the use of single-use plastic carryout bags provided by a retail establishment to a customer at the point of sale or checkout. It defines a retail establishment as any retail business in a commercial setting. That does not include food banks, public eating establishments defined as restaurants or take-out food establishments who sell their products to be eaten on or off their premises. A retail establishment will be prohibited from providing a single-use plastic carryout bag to any customer. All covered retail establishments must provide only the following bag types at checkout to customers: reusable bags, paper grocery bags or cardboard boxes, the city said.

An environmental service fee of 10 cents will be charged to the customer for each paper grocery bag provided.

Retail establishments are not required to collect the environmental service fee from any person with a voucher or electronic benefits card issued under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, Emergency Food Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program or the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the news release said.

Fifty percent of the fee collected will be retained by the retail establishment for administrative costs incurred by the collection and reporting of the fee. The remainder will go to the city for promoting the ordinance, purchasing reusable bags for the public and public education regarding sustainability.

To further promote the use of reusable bags and reduce the quantity of single-use carryout bags entering the city's waste stream, retail establishments are encouraged to make reusable bags free or for sale at checkout counters or provide boxes for use at checkout counters free of charge, the city said. The city Sustainability Office is authorized to provide reusable bags to the public at low- or no cost, with specific emphasis on reaching out to low-income households.

For more information, call the city’s Sustainability Office at 575-541-2177.