Richmond has become the first Contra Costa County city to approve a plastic bag ban, following other communities throughout the Bay Area and statewide.

The City Council passed a first reading Tuesday night of an ordinance that would institute a ban on plastic bags at all grocery and retail stores and a 5-cent fee for plastic bags.

The paper bag fee would increase to 10 cents in 2016, according to Jennifer Ly, a sustainability analyst for the city.

The fee is meant to encourage residents to eschew paper bags for reusable shopping bags, according to city staff.

Ly said the eco-friendly ordinance does not apply to restaurants and proposes a $250 fee on retailers that violate the ban. If approved, it would take effect Jan. 1.

The ordinance passed its first reading with five councilmembers’ approval and councilmen Jael Myrick, Corky Booze and Nat Bates abstaining.

Ly said some residents have worried that the new law will be a burden on the city’s poorest residents.

The city has given out more than 5,000 reusable shopping bags at senior and recreation centers and other areas in an effort to provide low-income residents with help complying with the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance was adopted from a model law drafted by the West Contra Costa Integrated Waste Management Authority and is similar to bans already in effect in Alameda, Marin and San Mateo counties, according to city staff.

Nearby El Cerrito and San Pablo are expected to adopt similar plastic bag bans this summer, Ly said.

She said Richmond’s City Council will likely vote on a second reading of the ordinance next month.

Laura Dixon, Bay City News

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