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County’s plastic bag ban starts Friday

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect Friday, but shoppers may face a mixed bag of policies until enforcement begins Sept. 1.

Some retailers who publicly supported the ban, such as Oliver’s Markets, are embracing the ban and Friday will stop offering customers plastic bags and start charging them 10 cents per paper bag.

plasticbagsquare“We lobbied for this law we believe in it, so we’re going to move forward and comply with the law fully,” said Tom Scott, general manager of Oliver’s, which has two stores in Santa Rosa and one in Cotati.

Others like G&G Market are planning to work through their inventory of existing plastic bags and hold off charging shoppers for paper bags as long as possible.

“We’re trying to not to burden our customers with one more thing and will be pushing off that fee as long as we can,” said Teejay Lowe, CEO of G&G Supermarkets, which has stores in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

The 5-and-a-half-month grace period was designed to allow retailers time to expend their inventory of plastic bags.

But it also sends mixed messages to shoppers about when and how individual retailers will be responding to the ban, said Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood, chairman of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency.

“I think it’s potentially confusing if people don’t know what to expect when they go into a store,” Wood said. “I wish it was cleaner.”

Ordinances become law 30 days after they are passed, so the new law passed by 10-member waste management agency board on Feb. 19 will officially go into effect Friday, said Patrick Carter, an agency analyst.

A later enforcement date was written into the ordinance because “one month’s notice isn’t a lot of time” for retailers to switch gears, Carter said.

The later enforcement date is really the most important one in the sense of a “ban” going into effect, Carter said.

“Nobody is going to come knocking on their door and saying ‘Why haven’t you switched?’ until Sept. 1,” Carter said.

Even then agency staff envisions enforcement will be complaint-based and largely unnecessary as retailers comply with the law voluntarily as they have in many other cities around the state, Carter said.

The agency board has always said, however, that it encouraged retailers who wanted to implement the ban immediately to do so, Carter said.

There wasn’t much question in the mind of Steve Schafer, manager of the Trader Joe’s on Santa Rosa Avenue, about when the company’s three Sonoma County locations would begin complying with the ordinance.

The stores don’t offer single-use plastic bags, only paper, and they already do a lot to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags, including large signs near the entrances and contest to encourage use of reusable bags, Schafer said.

“The transition for us isn’t going to be that great,” he said.

The real change beginning Friday will be the stores charging customers 10 cents per paper bag, he said. The charge will allow the store to offset its costs, but more importantly, it likely will create a powerful incentive for shoppers to bring their own bags. Trader Joe’s stores in communities where bans have taken place have seen the use of paper bags plunge, he said. That saves the company money that can be passed on to customers in the form of lower prices, he said.

Even so, Schafer said the staff is “a little bit nervous” about rolling out the changes ahead of other retailers. Checkers will have to inform customers about the new policy, and discuss with them how many bags they’ll need for their purchases, he said.

For Oliver’s Market, the ability to charge for paper bags was a “secondary consideration” in its decision to voluntarily follow the ban immediately, Scott said.

The primary reason is that the use of large numbers of single-use bags is “not consistent with our other business values,” Scott said. “To see these bags, hundreds of thousands of bags every year just going out and going into a landfill, it doesn’t feel good,” Scott said.

The grocer still has a small supply of single-use plastic bags, but instead of using them over time, Oliver’s will stop using them Friday, he said. The company likely will donate the leftover bags to a nonprofit that can use them, he said. Nonprofits, along with restaurants, are exempt from the ban.

How and when other large retailers begin complying with the law is unclear.

A Walmart official said the company is “undertaking the process to transition away from plastic bags” at its locations in Rohnert Park and Windsor, but provided no specifics.

A spokesman for the Safeway supermarket chain issued a similar statement, anticipating that “the change will go smoothly as employees versed on the new rules” but offering no details.

All stores said they would increase the amount of reusable bags.

Santa Rosa passed it’s own version of the bag ban on Feb. 11, so technically Santa Rosa’s ordinance went into effect earlier this week.

The waste management agency already has information about the ban on its website. It is planning to launch an outreach campaign to the public and retailers soon. The public education activities will include distributing 20,000 reusable bags to low income residents through social service organizations as well as at community events such as farmers markets and the county fairs.

Agency staff also is reaching out to retailers to educate them about the new law, explain what types of bags comply and to supply them with placards and posters to remind shoppers to bring their own bags. Three retailer “fairs” are planned for Cotati, Windsor and Santa Rosa at dates to be determined.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)





15 Responses to “County’s plastic bag ban starts Friday”

  1. Omar says:

    What fund is getting the bag tax??? The old canard the “general fund.” What a load of coal!!!

  2. PapaESoCo says:

    With apologies: Bags? We don’t need no stinkin bags”.

  3. Grapevines says:

    The American Revolution was started over taxation without representation.

    This is regulation without representation.

    Next we’ll be seeing carless days because of laws enacted by the 10 member spandex management agency. And the 10 member decency management agency will authorize that we can romp through the area on the second Sunday of the month wearing only our underwear, carrying 6 packs of beer, and peeking into windows.

    Oh wait, the Board of Supervisors has already approved of that action hasn’t it?

  4. Grapevines says:

    While I do not have any qualms in regards to having to bring in a reusable bag whenever I’m shopping, I do have reservations in regards to an unelected body being able to regulate and dictate to me a way of life which I have to follow because “it’s the law”.

    Who in the world is this “10-member waste management agency board” and how many other of these “secret agencies” do we have lurking waiting to manipulate our lives to their hidden agenda?

  5. The Hammer says:

    This just make me sick. Putting it as nice as I can, the people who voted this ordinance in are morons. Time to vote all these aholes out!

  6. Steveguy says:

    Let me think– I always have to bring my own plastic bags to the beaches for treasures or trash pick-up and I RARELY find a plastic bag of the type banned when I go. Odd

    And why can’t a grocer choose biodegradable soy, starch or even HEMP based bags ? Why ? Soy and hemp are right up the alley of these folks. Go figure.

    This “law” was enacted by an UNELECTED Board that people of a certain persuasion can take over by rigging the appointments to the Board or Agency.

    If these Boards, Agencies and Commissions can make laws and enforce them with fines and and other punishments, the We the People should be able to examine their books. Line by line.

    If we actually were informed of the waste and fraud in these organizations perhaps the public will have a better idea of how entitled these “public servants” seem to think of themselves.

    Line by line- every red cent .

    Demand audits and open books now !

  7. MendoTech says:

    I just now returned from shopping in a city that already has the bag ban in place.

    The clerk asked if I wanted to purchase some bags: My answer, “NO.”

    Since there were too many items to carry out by hand, I asked for assistance getting the stuff to my car. The clerk said he couldn’t do that.

    I then asked that the sale be cancelled and my CC payment be returned. The clerk refused, so I asked to see a manager. I told him my story, including the fact that I was not going to pay an extra ‘tax’ on the goods I purchased just in order to carry them away.

    He shook his head, muttered something about creating new problems for him and his store, then took out a couple of paper bags, put my groceries in them, put them in a cart and pushed the cart to my car.

    I put the bags in the car and thanked him for his help. He sort of snorted, and walked away.

    This no bag rule is supported by most stores, as it provides a new profit center.

    I’m not certain where all this leads, but I refuse to be a sheep that can be fleeced at will. I certainly will not shop where this stupid rule is enforced. I guess that means I will no longer be shopping in Sonoma County, but most of the sheeple will simply go along with the stupidity.

  8. Chris from Santa Rosa says:

    Guess you’ll have to carry all those groceries in your arms, David.

  9. Jim says:

    This is completely ridiculous. It is another tax on the people.

    “Enforcement” starts Sept 1? Did the government create another enforcement agency to monitor plastic bag distribution?

    Maybe people will turn in each other like people do with no-burn days. Read your history about how the SS found Jews. Yep, people turned in each other. Can’t wait to rat out someone for having a plastic bag.

    Does anyone remember that we have plastic bags because the government pressured stores to “save trees” and eliminate paper. Now we can’t have plastic bags (even bags made of recycled plastic) and can only have paper IF WE PAY A FEE.

    More and more money taken from the people means less and less productivity, and more and more government control.

  10. Robert C says:

    For Years, COSTCO has used cardboard boxes boxes at the check stand instead bags

  11. R.B. Fish says:

    The Bag Ban is a pathetic display of haphazard intellectualism alive and well within the liberal Democratic leadership of Sonoma County. A blatant example of a lack of intelligent leadership and pathetic special interest groups, namely environmentalists, hooking up for a phony cause. Grocers should be ashamed as there is an alternative short term bio degradable bag available on the market that’s made out of starch. However, now the cats out of the bag(pun intended) the line item cost of the bag that is hidden in general overhead for a typical bag use transaction, the grocer can now make 10 more cents. For example, if an item is $.99 and $.01 is for a bag the purchase would be $1.00 and no one would know or care. Now, the $.99 item cost $1.09 so the grocer makes 10 cents and pretends to be concerned about the environment. Furthermore, you still must use plastic bags for fruits and vegetables, which for me add up to more than take out bags. Next time, if you haven’t already just look around at all the plastic wrapped products that still go into the garage. No one wants to live in littered landscape of packaging debris or that negatively impacts the earth. If grocers (who we’re blaming here) were truly concerned they should tell the producers of the products they sell to not package in plastic. They introduced the plastic bag to society and they should solve the problem not pushing the blame and cost on consumers. The current Bag Ban approach will fail yet the consumers will pay for its failure. It would also help if many of us were not pigs. Yes, I started recycling and composting 40 years ago.

  12. Omar says:

    Like all progressive modern vacuum cleaners, this county needs to go bag less immediately without question. What can’t we who ride our bicycles everywhere carry our market purchases without bags of any sort. After all how much food and bars of soap do you really need?

    This is particularly true for the down and out homeless who seem to manage just find with all of their worldly possessions on a bike. They don’t need plastic bags. They recycle.

    Let the homeless point the way. Go bag less and just feel the freedom and good will toward your fellow human.

  13. Follower says:

    OK, now I’m angry!

    I thought the “plastic bags” they were banning were those limousine liberals with their botox face lifts and caked on makeup.

    I though we were finally rid of the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Di-Fi!

    DAMN!

  14. Don says:

    I went to whole foods with bags and they donate money to a fund when you bring your own bags. I hope Mr Scott will do the same and stop looking at this as another money stream. I should not be surprised that Mr Scott has shown his greed in wanting the .10 for a paper bag……he is already robbing us with the prices in his stores!

  15. David says:

    I think I will go to Oliver’s, load up about 3 or 4 baskets and then refuse to pay for paper bags. What will they do then???