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Santa Rosa OKs plastic bag ban, with conditions

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa supports a countywide ban on single-use plastic bags, with a twist.

While many of the eight other cities in Sonoma County support a single ordinance covering the entire county, Santa Rosa officials said Tuesday they’d like to maintain a measure of local control.

“I just have concerns about relinquishing our authority,” Vice Mayor John Sawyer said.

The board of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is meeting today to decide whether to move forward with an environmental impact … assessment on the proposed countywide ban and 10-cent fee on paper bags.

The Santa Rosa council told Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips to advise the board to move forward with that review, but not to commit the city to participating in any countywide version of ban until more information is available about issues such as enforcement.

Several city council members said they were more comfortable with a “model ordinance” being established by the county that can be tweaked, implemented and enforced locally instead of imposed countywide.

City Attorney Caroline Fowler said this option is preferable to her. She said it’s not clear if the joint powers authority, formed in 1992 by the county and its nine cities to divert more waste from landfills, has the legal authority to pass and enforce ordinances applicable to the member cities.

In addition, it is still uncertain how the county would enforce the ban, or provide recourse for businesses hit with the proposed $100 to $500 fines, Fowler noted.

The intent of the ban is to convince consumers to switch to reusable bags and prevent tons of plastic from fouling waterways and harming the environment.

Steve Birdlebough, chairman of the Sierra Club Sonoma Group, lamented the “exceedingly slow” process of rolling out a local ban.

Many people have already gotten the message about reusable bags, but the ban is needed to “nudge the rest of us into the reusable mode,” he said.

Retailers support a countywide approach because they want consistency and don’t want to have to comply with different rules in individual communities.

Santa Rosa’s position on the issue is important because it produces more trash than any other cities and because implementing the countywide ordinance requires a unanimous vote.

If Santa Rosa or other cities balk at a countywide ordinance over concerns about autonomy, then the model ordinance is another option.

But smaller cities don’t like the idea of a model ordinance because it requires them to bear some additional costs.

“They’ve expressed grave reservations about the model ordinance,” Henry Mikus, waste authority executive director, told the council.

For Santa Rosa, the cost of drafting a local ordinance and complying with the California Environmental Quality Act was pegged at between $30,000 and $40,000.

Councilman Scott Bartley said the model ordinance may allow individual cities to enact their own ordinances more quickly because they won’t have to wait for the a countywide enforcement or administrative bureaucracy to be established.

“It just seems like that a more efficient way to go,” Bartley said.





11 Responses to “Santa Rosa OKs plastic bag ban, with conditions”

  1. John says:

    Has anyone bothered to look at the photo accompanying this article? It’s of a recycling bin that most stores have inside their entrances, designed to let shoppers bring their bags back on their next shopping trip and drop them off, thus keeping them out of the waterways and the environment. A simple solution, and somewhat ironic that this picture gives us the simpler solution. Even the laziest of people can carry bags that weigh nearly nothing and deposit them in a bin that they must go by as they enter the store. Maybe it’s too mentally challenging to do this?

  2. Bob walker says:

    No matter what we do it will be considered wrong and we will be taxed accordingly.
    Liberalism = FAILURE

  3. Clay Mitchell says:

    A few reasons why re-usable bags may not be the superior choice:

    1. Increased water and energy use from people washing germ-laden reusable grocery bags-

    http://www.freakonomics.com/2010/09/30/the-downside-of-reusable-grocery-bags/

    2. Increased illness in the general public from people not washing germ-laden reusable grocery bags.

    http://www.boston.com/Boston/dailydose/2012/05/reusable-grocery-bags-can-spread-norovirus-study-finds/krd3dFGr9KswuySNIi7RtM/story.html

    3. More sick days from county residents struck down with food-borne illness due to germ-laden reusable grocery bags.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2010/06/whats-in-your-shopping-bag-bacteria-but-hey-its-natural.html

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_REUSABLE_BAG_VIRUS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-05-09-17-26-27

    4. Increased global warming emissions due to the importing of made-in-China reusable bags, made with coal-fired electricity at Laogai forced labor camps, over made-in-America plastic or paper bags.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122238422541876879.html

    And remember that this would affect all retailers, not just grocery stores. T-shirts at Old Navy, a new Ipad and accessories from the Apple store, CD’s from Best Buy- all bagless.

    Maybe even the protective plastic that they put over your dry cleaning. What about farmer’s markets? No more plastic bags for your fresh fruit purchases?

    And what about the anti-theft control function that branded bags ONLY given out at the register play? Increased anti-theft costs for retailers.

    This sounds like another knee-jerk reaction without full consideration of the unintended (or maybe they are intended) consequences.

  4. Canthisbe says:

    Why not ban bags altogether? If you had to limit your grocery shopping to what you could carry in your bare hands, we would all eat less and lose weight. If we weighed less, it would take less gas for our cars to move us around. By using less gas, we’d save the World!!!! Who could be against saving the World!??!

  5. Mark Epstein says:

    As a person who has already chosen to use canvas bags when shopping, I am content to allow my neighbors to do as their conscience tells them and to make their own arrangements with their grocer.

    While I think it would be nice (and preferable) to give me a 10 cent a bag discount when I bring my own instead of chsrging others 10 cents for not doing so, my main objection is that I see this proposal as gratuitous assault on my right to freely engage in commerce. Every power assumed by government is a right taken from the people. The expansion of government power to address such trivial matters at the expense of our liberty should be opposed on principal.

  6. Steveguy says:

    Ummm bye the way, paper does not degrade like they claim. It is a lie !

    You can drill into a dump and get readable newspaper bits from decades and decades ago. That is a known fact.

    The part about bringing your own bag or get charged just reeks to me. Why can’t my grocer make my shopping experience as cheap as possible, to lure me in the next time ?

    Maybe the Government can ‘invest’ $500 Million in Sacklydra, to produce bags for our ‘green’ future..

    My oh my

  7. Fish Bags says:

    OMG… here it comes again. It’s failed numerous times in Sonoma County. Kim is correct…they charge $3 for a 25 cent bag to be reuseable and it’s garbage and not useable. Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re middle class with a family of four and shop locally spending at least $8-$10,000 a year at the grocery store. The retail/grocery industry supplies the bags and now they want to call you a polluter so that they can have you pay for the costs which increases their profits. This is considerable if you add 5 cents and multiply by thousands of thousands or millions. There are too many people who have no social conscience or concern about trashing the streets or neighborhoods. Especially those from the third world countries. In any event if most of weren’t pigs plastic bags/bottles would not be a problem.
    It doesn’t bother me personally except elected and paid public officals xcannot efficiently solve this prble. You can still use plastic vegetable bags and other plastic products just not the ones that cost retailers money.

  8. Jim Bennett says:

    So many ways to tax, so littls time.

    Yes to paper that can bio-degrate, be easily recycled.

    Cut your 6 pack thingies so birds won’t get stuck in them.

    BUT, this is pandering/distraction/charade.

    The content is filled with crap that pales in comparison with THE REAL ISSUES.

    The priorities are gonna shift real quick…
    watch and be amazed.

    ‘Bad’ things are an opportunity to learn.

    That’s much of what the second half of this year will be about.

    Learning.

  9. Kim says:

    Exactly, Steveguy!

    In other places where they have this assinine regulation in effect the store keeps the 10 cents for the bag. It gives them the incentive to go along with the program.

    This is another “feel good” regulation (just as you point out). Its like putting a grain of salt in an olympic sized swimming pool, it won’t make any difference. Many people given the choice will bring their own bags just as they do at many stores like Trader Joes. Why force people to do something when they will most likely do it on their own> More goverment regulations! For what?

    Ever try to put one of those reusable bags in the washer? Don’t Do It! Some fall apart on the first washing. Some bleed on to anything else in that washer load. Some have plastic liners inside that prevents the bag from drying. And DON’T EVER toss one in the dryer!

    Next thing you know they’ll be complaining about all the reusable bags that are going into the landfills because most are NOT recycleable!

  10. RICHARD says:

    “Santa Rosa… produces more trash…” – KEVIN McCALLUM

    Time to get reusable shopping bags. It takes a real man to carry a shopping bag to market.

    Plastic shopping bags are pollution, hazardous waste, in my opinion.

    PROHIBIT PLASTIC POLLUTION !

  11. Steveguy says:

    10 cent fee for paper bags ? Where does that money go, and how do they plan on collecting it?

    Besides, look in your ‘plastic grocery bag’and see how much more plastic there is IN your bag than the bag itself. I would say probably 10 times more safely, and with shampoo or other containers more like 500 times more.

    I have done trash clean-ups before, and grocery bags are not anywhere near the trash of other plastic items.

    This whole thing reeks of ‘feel-goodism’.