UPDATE: Supes Approve Countywide Plastic Bag Ban Model

The ban will go into effect by April 22, 2013 in unincorporated areas of the county and serve as a model for all cities to adopt city-wide bans.

UPDATED 2:15 p.m.: The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted unamimously, 5-0, to approve a model ban on plastic bags by unincorporated areas of the county. The ban will go into effect April 22, 2013, giving businesses time to come up with plans to offer reusable bags.

“We’re going to devote time and energy over the coming months to reach out to consumers and businesses, educating them about the environmental benefits of the ordinance and giving them time to adjust,” said Board President Adrienne J. Tissier, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Supervisor Carole Groom.

The Environmental Impact Report the Board approved during the meeting indicates that 552 million plastic bags are used annually in the 24 cities and the unincorporated area of San Mateo County.


Tuesday evening, San Mateo County will vote on whether to institute a model plastic bag ban. If it passes, 18 cities in San Mateo County and six more in Santa Clara County will have the opportunity to adopt the ban.

Vanessa Barrington, a public relations manager for Save the Bay, said the move is a monumental one. 

"This type of cross-county regional effort over such a large geographic area is unprecedented," she said. "With the Bay Area’s two largest cities, San Francisco and San Jose, having the strongest bans in the nation, this measure could be a huge boon for the Bay."

Barrington said the push is led by the San Mateo County Department of Environmental Health, and that the measure enjoys the support of The California Grocers Association and many area businesses, municipalities and environmental groups. 

Are plastic shopping bags polluting our bay?

According to members of Save the Bay, run-off pollution from local streets and neighborhoods - including plastic shopping bags, Styrofoam containers and other trash - is the single largest source of Bay pollution.

"Plastic bags and other trash kill wildlife, smother wetlands, and spoil water quality," reads a statement by Save the Bay sent out in advance of Tuesday night's vote. "Policies that encourage reusable shopping bags help clean up our communities and our Bay and save cities money."

In 2011, the City of San Jose passed a landmark ordinance that bans plastic bags and places a small charge on paper bags at all retailers, which went into effect in January of 2012. Other Santa Clara County cities, such as Sunnyvale, have since followed suit.

This year, San Francisco expanded its plastic bag ban to include all retailers - except restaurants, which will be subject to the ban soon - and to place a small charge on paper bags.

The City of South San Francisco adopted a "voluntary plastic bag ban" last year to encourage residents to use reusable bags more.

The average charge for a paper bag is 10 cents.

Currently, Save the Bay members say more than 50 percent of Bay Area residents live in communities that have banned plastic bags. Save The Bay works with cities and counties to enact policies such as bag bans and fees.

Supervisor Carole Groom told Patch she plans to support the model plastic bag ban Tuesday night.

"I'm really pleased by the way we brought industry groups and cities together to craft a regionally consistent set of regulations," Groom said. "We're well on our way toward eliminating a lot of litter from our environment."


PATCH WANTS TO KNOW - Do you support the ban of single-use plastic bags in San Mateo County cities? Tell us in the comments below.

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Jesse M. October 23, 2012 at 10:16 PM
This will create just enough controversy to keep SMC residents distracted from the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being sucked out of SMC residents by measure A and the county supes and being pumped into the new state-of-the art jail. Charge me .5% more sales tax to fund a needless prison, who cares. Charge me ten cents for a paper bag and I'll break your neck! Let's focus on real issues people.
Antonio Catpo October 24, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I guess we, as professor Dan Arielli says, are irrational. I saw a buyer going through excrutiating pains deciding wheter or not pay 5 cents for a bag at "Children's Place." I congratulate BOS for passing this measure.
Scott Ventura December 20, 2012 at 09:50 PM
The exaggerated language is so manipulating ("smother wetlands, and spoil water quality," ) I have bicycled atleast 75 miles of the Bay Trail and hiked and mountain biked countless miles of the surrounding hills, all while taking notice of the Bay shore, creeks and the shores of reservoirs. While there IS litter, it CERTAINLY doesnt even fall into the category of "smothering" . 
Scott Ventura December 20, 2012 at 09:53 PM
I see just as many plastic, glass and aluminum containers as plastic bags. Out law them?  Also, there should then be an ban on livestock and horses who urinate and defecate near our creeks that lead to the Bay and near our reservoirs from which we drink. I fully agree that there is a litter problem, but why not tax the fast food restarants who's litter I see on a regular basis up and down the peninsula. (Entire bags with all wrappers, cups,napkins, catsup packaging etc)  Why not have city contracted garbage companies collect used plastic bags so people don't have to haul them to the grocery store to discard them in the used plastic bag bins?  This whole ban is suspitious and implemented not by the business owners and patrons by votes, but by a board of supervisors who are going to determine what's best for the masses.  
Scott Ventura December 20, 2012 at 09:54 PM
I know it seems like a "small" issue compared to global problems, but it is aggravating to carry bags, then to pay for them when you happen to forget them.  It truly makes me want to shop elsewhere on principle alone.  Please! Tax the poisonous fast food joints county wide and HONESTLY use the money to employ workers a living wage to pick up litter, contract garbage companies to pick up household plastic bags and let merchants handle their own business regarding shopping bags.


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