County seeks public comment on plastic-bag ban at checkout counters | April 25, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - April 25, 2012

County seeks public comment on plastic-bag ban at checkout counters

by Dave Boyce

With the support of Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Woodside and most other city and town governments in San Mateo County, the county's Department of Environmental Health Services is asking the public to comment on the scope of a proposed county-wide ordinance that would ban the use by retailers of single-use plastic bags at checkout counters.

Paper bags would still be available at the counters, but customers would have to buy them — paying a minimum of 10 cents until Dec. 31, 2014, and 25 cents after that.

The point would be to encourage people to shop with their own reusable bags, Dean Peterson, the director of Environmental Health Services for San Mateo County, told the Portola Valley Town Council recently.

An environmental impact report (EIR) is in the works. A staff report online describes the proposed ordinance and includes ways to comment, either by writing or by attending one of six public meetings, including one at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, in the Redwood City Public Library at 1044 Middlefield Road.

Submit written comments before May 6 to Planner Camille M. Leung in the Planning and Building Department at 455 County Center, Second Floor, in Redwood City, CA 94063. By email, contact Ms. Leung at

Public comments will "help cities and local jurisdictions decide whether to ban paper and plastic bags," the report says.

Redwood City joins Portola Valley, Woodside and Menlo Park among the 18 city and town governments in San Mateo County listed as supporting this proposal. Atherton is not on the list, but then Atherton has no retail outlets. The list also includes six cities and towns in Santa Clara County.

A group effort is important in that ordinances in individual communities have been vulnerable to court challenges by deep-pocketed bag manufacturers. With an EIR, paid for by the county, this ordinance would be harder to challenge, Mr. Peterson told the Woodside Town Council in March.

Restaurants and other food service outlets would be exempt, and the ban would not affect the plastic bags used for raw or bulk foods, medicines and bags meant to prevent cross-contamination inside a shopping bag. Retailers would have to keep detailed records on bag-related costs and revenues related to complying with this ordinance.

Meeting schedule

Here is the schedule of public meetings:

• Half Moon Bay: Wednesday, April 18, at 6 p.m. in the Ted Adcock Community/Senior Center Sun Room at 535 Kelly Avenue.

• San Mateo: Thursday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m. in the Oak Room at San Mateo Public Library at 55 West Third Ave.

• Mountain View: Wednesday, April 25, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 500 Castro St.

• South San Francisco: Thursday, April 26, at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Services Building at 33 Arroyo Drive.

• Campbell: Wednesday, May 2, at 6 p.m. in the Campbell Public Library at 77 Harrison Ave.

• Milpitas: Thursday, May 3, at 2 p.m. in Room 140 in the Barbara Lee Senior Center at 40 North Milpitas Boulevard.

• Redwood City: Thursday, May 3, at 6 p.m. in the Redwood City Public Library at 1044 Middle


Like this comment
Posted by Plastic Bag Trash!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm

It is time the USA stops being a "consumer" society and leading the destruction of the planet. It is time capitalism is not synonomous with planetary destruction anymore. Did our Founding Fathers envision our country and planet being consumed and swallowed by plastic and garbage? Did they envision a floating island of plastic trash out in the ocean where sea life (whales/dolphins/fish) and other animals feed on the plastic and it is ending up in the food chain? A dead whale in WA state was recently found to have plastic, rope, a golf ball, and other debris in its body! Did they envision floating barges of garbage/plastic and burning plastic trash in developing countries filling the air with pollution? Did they envision the ravishing cancers that are killing millions of important people from the toxins from plastic manufacturing and residues? Europe is the model for the world for the environment. If Europeans get around successfully and use re-usable hemp/cotton/fabric shopping bags why can't Americans? Less is more! It is time Americans start being leaders and models for the world.

Like this comment
Posted by More Food For Thought
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:03 pm

It might actually save us all a little money too (by not requiring grocers/stores to pass on the cost of the bag to customers)! A good thing.