Almanac

News - April 17, 2013

Plastic bag ban at checkout starts April 22

by Sandy Brundage

Earth Day (April 22) this year heralds the end of single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter in Menlo Park and 24 other Peninsula cities.

The Menlo Park City Council voted 5-0 in January to join the county in enacting a new ordinance banning the use of plastic bags by retailers, although Menlo Park made a few modifications, including the addition of a clause allowing the council to vote on whether to locally implement any future changes San Mateo County makes to the new law.

The county Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance in October 2012. The ban prohibits the use of plastic bags by retailers, except at restaurants and for produce, and also adds a 10-cent fee for paper bags if customers don't bring their own bags. On Jan. 1, 2015, the fee increases to 25 cents per paper bag and reusable bag provided by stores.

Portola Valley's ban, a complete implementation of the county's ordinance, is also set to go into effect on April 22. Brandi de Garmeaux, who coordinates environmental initiatives for the town, said that Roberts Market stopped distributing these single-use plastic bags some time ago. Portola Valley Hardware can still use them for small parts, and restaurants are exempt when packaging takeout food.

In Woodside, the Town Council argued over this issue on at least three occasions and introduced a diluted ordinance that did not include the county's fees and bookkeeping requirements. But the council never completed the process for enacting that ordinance into law.

As in Portola Valley, Roberts Market in Woodside does not distribute such bags, Town Hall staff has said.

Retailers that don't comply with the ban are looking at a $100 fine for the first violation and $200 for a second. Starting with a third violation, a retailer will be fined $500 each day until the store falls in line. The ordinance authorizes the county's environmental health department to enforce the ban.

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