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Sonoma County Board of Supervisors advance plastic bag ban


Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday advanced a proposal to ban plastic bags now given out to shoppers at grocery and other retail stores, but called for a single ordinance that would apply countywide.

The ban would start in July 2013 and apply to what are termed “single-use carryout bags.” It would not extend to bags used to hold meat and vegetables, or apply to restaurants. It also would levy a 10-cent fee for paper bags, which merchants would collect and keep. That fee would rise to 25 cents a bag in 2014.

A fine schedule starting at $100 and rising to $500 for a third violation in a year would be included.

Not yet settled are questions about who would enforce the ban and whether it would be the same countywide or perhaps vary among cities, an option that store owners oppose.

The supervisors’ unanimous action signaled their clear support for a ban.

“The time has come,” Supervisor Mike McGuire said. “We’ve discussed this for the better part of half a decade now.”

But the board also stated its preference for one countywide ordinance. It gave its representative on the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency — which would adopt and administer the ordinance — the authority to support only that option.

“What’s most important to me is consistency. It gives a level playing field,” Supervisor Efren Carrillo said.

At the Mendocino Avenue Safeway on Tuesday, Alan Lockler said he would favor a ban. “Much as I hate to lose the convenience, I think it’s a good idea. I’ll give it up to save a duck,” he said, referring to wildlife becoming entangled in discarded bags.

Similar proposals elsewhere have spurred complaints of over-regulation, but none were voiced Tuesday and supervisors said it would help the environment.

“This is about protecting our rivers, protecting our coast, protecting our creeks,” said Carrillo. “This is long overdue.”

The ordinance also would move the county toward its goal of diverting 90 percent of curbside and drop-off waste from the landfill by 2020, said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the board chairwoman.

“The only way we’re going to reach that . . . is to have these kinds of policies in place,” she said.

Supervisor David Rabbitt asked how much it would cost to produce the environmental report required before a ban could take effect and then to enforce it.

“I think we really need to come to grips with that before we go too far down the line,” he said.

The environmental report cost had been estimated at $100,000, as had the annual cost of managing the ordinance, said Patrick Carter, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency’s program manager. However, he said, they are now expected to come in lower.

“We think there is going to be a lot of self-enforcement going on,” on the part of shoppers, he said.

The ban has been studied since 2008 and advocates said Tuesday that the county is behind the environmental curve.

“When we started . . . we may have been leading a little bit,” said Ken Wells of the Sierra Club. “At this point, more than half the planet’s population has a bag ban. We’re not leading anymore. Bangladesh has a bag ban.”

Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Mendocino, San Francisco, San Jose and Alameda County are among other jurisdictions in the state that have adopted bans.

With the supervisors’ action, the board of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency can begin the process of completing a draft of the ordinance. The agency is now reviewing proposals to conduct the environmental review.

The county’s nine cities have said they support a ban, but Sebastopol, Cloverdale and Rohnert Park have yet to agree to a countywide version.

Waste agency staff are to meet with each of those remaining three cities by the end of August.

“Everyone that we’ve gone to so far has felt that the countywide one is the way to go,” Carter said.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

20 Responses to “Sonoma County Board of Supervisors advance plastic bag ban”

  1. Missy says:

    Several of us from this page that are indies & righties are discussing this on facebook. Please join us.


    It’s an outrage.

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  2. Chuck G says:

    Let’s take this one a step further, how about charging admission to go into a grocery store! Tickets can be purchased at the booth set up in front of the entrance.

    If you need to exit the store upon entrance for any reason, you can have your hand stamped!

    Unbelievable is being polite!

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  3. Follower says:

    I can’t figure out if the “Nanny Statists” are just ignorant of history or anarchist history experts hoping to slowly push us into revolt.
    The heavy hand of Government they so enjoy may work in a third world country of uneducated, unarmed peasants but here in the “land of the free” and the home of the well armed, this isn’t likely to end well.
    And if it does, it will be yet another “first time in history” for America.

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  4. Michael Sheehan says:

    Solution – start saving your plastic bags now, and keep them in the car to bring to the grocery store when you shop. Just reuse them over and over. No need to pay for paper.

    By the way, funny how the over-the-top eco-nuts don’t seem to have a problem with keeping paper bags, which destroy trees.

    Also funny how the BOS has time for this kind of small potatoes stuff, but never have time to address the big, critical problems. Just like the power hungry types in Sacramento and Washington DC.

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  5. Commonsense says:

    Lets think about this for a minute, so every retail and grocery store in Sonoma County would be restricted from using any plastic bag, and they would be required to charge a fee for paper bags, which they could keep.
    First, already high prices in retail and food will increase, making it more difficult for families to eat healthy food because the stores will pass on the increased cost of any alternative bags to the customers.
    Which leads right into my next point, that there is no real basis or need to charge for the alternative bag, since the retail/food store will build any extra cost into what they charge in general. So the ONLY basis for the fee is to “motivate” a specific behavior from the customer while giving the retailer and extra added monetary incentive (above what they would do in house anyway). All this during what can best be described as a stale economey.
    As hard as it may be for some to understand, many people are motivated to change based more on social and community networks, then by government interference. In fact, many people I know already use the cloth bags, and many more are beginning to make the change on their own. I actually don’t see alot of litter around this area at all, and very few plasic bags. What litter I do see is usually cans and glass bottles (alot of wine bottles in fact).
    Doesn’t the BOS have bigger issues to focus on right now???
    Maybe we could use a little common sense and focus on things a little more pressing then banning plastic bags and imposing yet another “fee” on the community.

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  6. Snarky says:

    Government fails to lead by example.

    Government leads through coercion of demanded fees, demanded taxes, demanded “permits,” and threatened civil and criminal prosecutions.

    If you all haven’t figured that out yet, all I can say is to pay attention.

    Your life belongs to the government from the moment you wake up with that mandatory CO monitor in your house to the time you hit the hay by turning out that government mandated new fangled light bulb.

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  7. Grapevines says:

    Now if we can only get them to spend as much time addressing such items as Employee Pension Reform, Gang Suppression, Graffiti enforcement, Road Maintenance, and other issues that would improve life to the county taxpayers.

    And while they are doing that, I want to apply to be the “Bag-Plastic Police Department” Chief. Yup, chief of the BS-PD, sure hope with that title the public would not want me to police the BOS but I can see where the confusion would be in that respect.

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  8. Just Me says:

    Does nobody remember when they charged for paperbags years ago to “Save the Trees”?

    Now look at the trees…they are all on fire!

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  9. MTC says:

    All I can say is I own a van, and I know I can fit a shopping cart in it. I’ll tell the checker to just throw everything back in the cart, There’s no fee for taking that home. By the way, almost everything in stores now are wrapped in plastic, look around next time your there, this is not solving anything other then controlling the people. Whats next soda can only be in 16oz cups? Oh that’s right that is in the works. Gee I LOVE this Country, Home of the Brave and Land of the Free, or should I say Libs.

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  10. David Wells says:

    So, none of you know what your talking about. Note the surprise.

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  11. j galt says:

    I cannot wait to at last find a use for the old feedbags I’ve been saving for years! Long live the gunny sack!

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  12. L. Maricle says:

    I already plan to go once a month out of this county and do the bulk of my shopping. I will give someother county that cares about me and not political correctness my sales tax dollars.

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  13. RE: Reality Check says:

    I do not think you shopped at grocery stores on your visit to Denmark. In Denmark every grocery store has charged at least 25 cents for a plastic bag for many years now, depending on how big a bag you want.

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  14. Grey Whitmore says:

    J.R. Wirth … Your “CHOICE” is going to drive the eco-system of this planet straight into oblivion.

    Depending on where you look, approx. 12 MILLION barrels of oil are used each year to make single use bags.

    That’s about 120 BILLION dollars just for the oil!

    I think we can let the “nanny state” have a say on this one.

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  15. Chuck G says:

    You gotta love this ridiculous act, who in the world do these retailers think they are? Has anyone checked the prices on the shelf at your local Safeway, or Raleys? Give people a better discount and then you can pass the increase in bags to all of us

    Look at your local Ad flyers on Wednesday as you will notice candy bars on sale, not what you really need especially if you’re trying to raise a family and feed them well.

    So as for your asking .25 cents for a bag, I will grab my items, stuff them in my pocket and leave your store never to return!

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  16. Jean Anderson says:

    Next, the left-wing hypocrites and their media stooges will try to ban cloth bags as unsanitary, so people will need to bring their groceries home inside their coats and sweaters, like the kid from Animal House.

    From Obama on down to the Sonoma County liberal losers, the corrupt, self-serving, arrogant dopes who think they know-it-all have no respect for anyone or anything other than their own elitism and lunacy.

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  17. Over Easy says:

    Add a fee for paper bags? Add a clause for the landfill reduction? What about feral pet homelessness? or the femification of boys raised by single moms?

    GET A GRIP! and do something about homelessness, the roads, and help the elderly.


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  18. Reality Check says:

    “Let me see,” the store checker says, “I can put your veggies is this plastic bag and your meat in another, but I can’t add your can of soup or cereal box to either even though there’s space for both. For those you’ll have to buy a another bag.”

    Who’s going to enforce this lunacy?

    As to plastic bags being the problem, in a visit last year to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, I received plastic bags for my purchases practically everywhere. Plastic bag litter? In 3 weeks I saw none.

    We seek to solve a problem by attacking the symptom. If ending unwanted litter is our goal, what next do we ban? The list will be a long one.

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  19. J.R. Wirth says:

    George Carlin had a famous monologue in his later years about how in modern society all real choices have been taken away from us by do-gooders. He said the only choice we have left is paper or plastic and window or aisle. He was a genius of course.

    This is what I hate about liberals these days. They’re hypocrites that worship the nanny state. They didn’t start out that way, they used to be about CHOICE. You expect conservatives to come up with awful things like blue laws in places like Oklahoma, but more often than not it’s liberals that are taking away our freedom, bit by bit.

    It’s all because they know better than us. Every time a liberal opens his or her mouth it’s always “let me teach you how to live.” They don’t even realize how smug and provincial they’ve become. Who are these people anyway to tell me how to live?

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  20. GAJ says:

    A 10cent paper bag fee (to be raised to 25cents in 2014) that the retailer gets to keep?

    Those bags cost the merchant about 2 1/2 cents each so in 2014 merchants will be making a 900% profit on paper bags?

    Hey, County, you’re BROKE. At least take half of the fee and put it towards fixing our pathetic County Roads.

    It might only amount to a few hundred thousand dollars per year but considering the total budget is only $4 million that could be a significant contribution.

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