Should local towns ban plastic bags?

Menlo Park commission to discuss banning the bag

Someday, that plastic bag you carried home from Safeway might be worth something on eBay. OK, probably not, but it may become an endangered species in San Mateo County.

The Board of Supervisors decided on Sept. 27 to ask local cities whether they'd support banning plastic bags throughout the county.

Needless to say, Save the Bay thinks that's a great idea. The nonprofit organization estimates Bay Area residents throw away more than 100 bags per second after using each for about 12 minutes. One million of those bags end up in the Bay, damaging wetlands and wildlife, according to the nonprofit.

"What is remarkable about this particular policy is that the San Mateo County supervisors would like to encourage countywide collaboration, and are considering different ways of bringing all the county's cities into the process," said Amy Ricard, spokesperson for Save the Bay. " In fact, the county is considering completing an EIR in such a way that would apply to all the San Mateo County cities, with the goal to have the cities pass their ordinances simultaneously."

Then there's the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, fighting for the survival of plastic bags everywhere on behalf of merchants and manufacturers. Its data shows that plastic bags don't deserve their bad reputation. Environmental research, according to the group's website, shows that paper bags actually do more damage by increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

And not all customers opt for re-usable bags over paper: A 2008 survey of 25 stores by the ULS Report found that the majority of observed San Francisco shoppers chose paper bags instead of re-usable totes a year after that city's ban took effect.

While plastic bags are a popular environmental issue in many communities, not all towns within the Almanac's coverage area need to jump on the bandwagon Atherton has no retail. Portola Valley and Woodside, meanwhile, seem to taking a wait and see approach.

"In Portola Valley we have very few retail establishments. If the county asks its cities to join forces to adopt a plastic bag ban, we would likely look to the Town Council for guidance as our approach in the past has been to encourage rather than regulate," said Brandi de Garmeaux, the town's sustainability and resource efficiency coordinator, in an email. "Currently, we are working with the one or two vendors who use expanded polystyrene and/or plastic bags to find more environmentally friendly products."

She said that for a small town with limited retail, like Portola Valley, bans can foster ill will against the town and make it more difficult to work with local businesses to adopt additional environmentally friendly practices, such as energy- and water-efficiency upgrades. So the town uses encouragement and assistance instead of adopting ordinances that would force retailers to participate

Woodside's assistant town manager Kevin Bryant said that the town has no plans to look into banning plastic bags.

That leaves Menlo Park. The Environmental Quality Commission discussed a ban on Wednesday, Oct. 5, with a focus on prohibiting the city's 251 food vendors from using plastic bags.

Data provided by Save the Bay shows that nine cities in the Bay Area have either banned plastic bags or are researching a ban. Several, such as Berkeley and Fremont, are waiting for the results of an environmental impact report (EIR) from Stopwaste, a public agency in Alameda County. While an EIR has usually been required to implement a bag ban, the California Supreme Court ruled this summer that a full report may not be needed before implementing an ordinance prohibiting stores from giving the bags to customers.

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm

My wife and I have 2 dogs and we both work. We leave out wee wee pads for the dogs to do their business during the day. When we come home at night we dispose of the used pads in plastic bags from the grocery store and place them in the Recology trash bin.

If Menlo Park bans the use of plastic bags it will anger pet owners in 30 precincts. Since we don't live in Chicago our dogs can't vote; but we can.

Like this comment
Posted by Gunther Steinberg
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm

It is my opinion that banning plastic bags is the result of the too many people being sloppy and unconcerned with littering anywhere.

We use the plastic bags to collect garbage, bundle up the result and place it into the proper bin. Any unused ones are recycled at the local participating stores. We do use our cloth bags much of the time to preclude the need for such bags.
Absent receiving these bags with shopping, we would probably go our and purchase a supply of plastic garbage bags, very much like the ones we receive while shopping.

The people who litter will not be influenced by a ban, they will scatter other junk around, because they do not care. Enforcing the littering laws might help, but that too is low priority to any authority.

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Posted by Dog Owner Barks in favor of Ban
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm

As a dog owner, I purchase and use biodegradable bags for pet waste disposal - and I support the ban on plastic bags which contribute to pollution and are a waste. If the store stop handing out the bags, people will start bringing reusable bags. It's pretty simple, and a great solution to the ever growing waste and pollution problem caused by the disposable plastic bags. Sorry Mister Lawerence, you do not speak for all dog owners. Don't be such a cheapskate and head over to Costco and buy some more environmentally biodegradable bags to dispose of your pet waste.

Like this comment
Posted by Carolyn Chaney
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm

A ban on plastic bags would be great. The CA Grocers support a ban and the CA Retailers beg for consistency. Our county is trying to achieve that by inviting the cities to participate, and the county is willing to undertake the Environmental Impact Study, which can be a hurdle for individual cities to pay for. The Almanac article is a bit misleading in its description of San Francisco, where paper bags are provided for free. If shoppers have to pay for paper, more of us will carry our reusable bags to the stores and cut way down on plastics that clog our freeways, streams and bay.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Oct 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Yes, please ban plastic bags as we have proven that we cannot control their disposal. Bags wind up in the ocean, killing wildlife and marring our coastline. Bags wind up on the side of the road, blighting our community and increasing municipal cleanup costs. Bags wind up in curbside recycling bins, where they cannot be recycled, driving up waste costs when they jam up machinery. Bags drive up food costs as retailers give them away for "free". A plastic bag ban will create green jobs with California companies. I, too, have a dog and do not expect society to bear all of these costs so that I can save a few dollars a year on poop bags.

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Posted by Lanah Hotchkiss
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2011 at 8:50 am

I strongly favor banning plastic bags.
Redwood City, CA

Like this comment
Posted by tom.h
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm

No! Consider some of the unintended consequences;
1. bagging takes longer, frustration ensues, people are more pressed for time, road rage follows, etc.
2. dog poop landpines proliferate(not everyone is as conscientious as Dog Owner Barks), anger ensues, etc.

Are we overlooking the obvious? Are not biodegradable plastic bags available for retail outlets? What do Whole Foods and Draegers use? (I can't afford to shop there, so I don't know)

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Rather than banning bags just require stores to use biodegradeable bags. I would pay a little extra for that.

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Posted by Cordona
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Ban all plastic products if it is possible.... But one step forward would be plastic bags for sure. Biodegradable bags are available at BigLots if u don't want to pay that much, just make sure not to bag them.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 23, 2012 at 7:00 am

Ban all plastic - what a great idea. While we're at it lets ban cars and trucks and everything else that is remotely poluting. then we can go back to riding horses and living in caves. Super idea. How about this? How about we go after teh people that are creating teh litter with their irresponsible use and disposal of plastic bags instead of penalizing the vast majority of the rest of us? What a novel concept.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jun 6, 2017 at 2:28 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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