After a year long hiatus, in which single-use plastics were encouraged for Covid-safety, Bernalillo County is reinstating its single-use plastic ban.

County manager Julie Morgas Baca is rescinding the order she implemented last summer allowing businesses to use the bags during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a press release from the county.

Bernalillo County intends to work closely with business owners to ensure a smooth transition while offering counseling on any possible violations, as well as working with vendors so they might help remind business owners that it is no longer allowed.

Bernalillo County spokesperson Tom Thorpe said the county will speak with business owners first, before handing out citations because “often a violation is an honest mistake.”

Anyone caught in violation of the single-use plastics ban will be contacted directly and given opportunity to correct the oversight, he said.

Should violations continue, a 30-day cease and desist letter will be sent to the business owner. Should the owner still fail to comply, a second letter will be sent giving the business owner 10 days to comply. Should violations persist and be consistent, the owner will be required to appear in District Court and could result in a fine. Violations from this point would be handled by the court.

According to the ordinance: “Any owner of a retail establishment found in violation of any provision of this article is subject to the following penalties: A formal warning for the first offense; A civil fine of $100.00 for the second offense; A civil fine of $250.00 for third offense and subsequent offenses.”

In addition, the ordinance also states, “Each calendar day during which the civil violation occurs shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Any county employee authorized to enforce codes and ordinances shall be empowered to enforce this article, unless otherwise directed by the board of county commissioners. Any person who is found in violation of this article may request a hearing be scheduled by a county hearing officer. The request shall be made in writing to the county business license clerk within 15 business days of the formal violation. The hearing shall be held within 20 working days (excluding weekends and holidays) of receipt of the request unless the hearing is continued with the agreement of the parties. The county hearing officer shall determine whether a violation of this article occurred. The hearing officer shall mail a written notice of decision to the owner within five working days of the hearing. If the hearing officer determines a violation of this article did occur, the hearing officer shall impose the fine as prescribed. If the hearing officer determines a violation did not occur, the imposition of a fine will be removed and no fine will be imposed. Failure to pay a fine imposed by this article may prevent the issuance of a business license or business license renewal.”

He said the county will be working closely with businesses and suppliers to “make sure they understand there is an ordinance.”

Thorpe said the ordinance is to prohibit the use of single-use bags. “While recycling, or re-purposing is nice, it does not curtail the use of the bags. That’s the intent of the ordinance, to eventually remove the bags from any use,” he said, adding, “It’s important to note that the county is not out looking for stores that might be employing this use, but the county will investigate any complaints that may be lodged and then counsel the business owner on the ordinance,” he said.

Single-use plastic bags are most frequently used by restaurants.

A single-use plastic carryout bag is defined as a plastic bag provided at the check stand, cash register, point of sale, or other point of departure for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of the establishment. A single-use Styrofoam container, for purposes of the ordinance, is defined as a disposable food service container designed for one time use.

As with the initial implementation of the single-use plastic bag and container ordinance, business owners will be allowed to use any containers and bags they already have in stock and will be required to order biodegradable packaging, according to Thorpe.

To read the ordinance visit this link.