Portola Valley council agrees to plastic-bag ban


The Portola Valley Town Council unanimously agreed on Wednesday, Jan. 23, to prohibit retailers in town from dispensing single-use plastic bags at checkout counters.

The plastic bag law takes effect on Earth Day, April 22, 2013, and is identical to the ordinance that will be enacted on the same day in the unincorporated communities of San Mateo County such as Ladera and Emerald Hills.

Retailers may continue to use plastic bags for certain items, such as food to go, prescription drugs, fresh produce, and small parts from hardware stores.

Customers without a bag of their own will have to buy a paper one -- costing 10 cents each until December 31, 2014, and 25 cents after that. Retailers are required to keep records of the sale of paper bags, and may exempt people on low fixed incomes from paying for a bag.

Portola Valley adopted its ordinance "by reference" to the county ordinance to take advantage of the extensive background work done by the county, including an environmental impact report intended to discourage lawsuits by plastic bag manufacturers.

The decision was included in the consent calendar -- a collection of actions meant to be approved with one vote because they are considered more or less settled. Individual items can be "pulled" from the consent calendar for further discussion, but the bag ban passed without comment from the council or from the public.

There was plenty of comment in Woodside one day earlier, when the Town Council also agreed to a ban on single-use plastic bags, but on a split vote and for a slightly different measure. Woodside's ordinance does not require merchants to keep records of the sale of paper bags. See related story.

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