Update: Pacifica and Half Moon Bay Introduce Reusable Bag Ordinance

Are you ready for a plastic-bag free coast?

Update 2/21/13:

The Half Moon Bay City Council passed the new reusable bag ordinance unanimously Tuesday night, joining dozens of cities around the Bay Area, banning plastic bags and adding a 10-cent surcharge on paper and reusable bags.

This means that plastic bags will no longer be an option at Coastside stores, so have your reusable totes handy.

The new rules will officially take effect on April 22, but San Mateo County health officials say they won’t begin enforcing it until October.


Original post 1/15/13:

Starting on Earth Day, April 22, 2013, Pacifica will become a plastic-bag-free zone. In December, the Pacifica City Council adopted the Reusable Bag Ordinance, which means all retail stores in the city limits will be plastic-bag-free. Reusable and recycled content paper bags will still be available for purchase.

Half Moon Bay could very well be on its way to adopting the Reusable Bag Ordinance as well. At tonight’s 7 p.m. City Council meeting at the Ted Adcock Community Center, councilmember’s will review San Mateo County’s regional approach to a reusable bag ordinance and provide staff direction on initiating the ordinance in Half Moon Bay.

The intent of the ordinance is to reduce the environmental impacts related to single-use carryout bags and to promote the use of reusable bags. Each year, 20 billion single-use plastic bags are used in California, and most end up in landfills, as litter on land and in waterways, and harming wildlife. The ordinance will regulate the distribution of paper and plastic single-use carryout bags by all retail establishments, including those selling clothing, food, and personal items directly to the customer. It would not apply to restaurants or non-profit charitable reuse organizations.

In early 2012, the County of San Mateo led a regional effort on this issue. The County Board of Supervisors adopted a Model Reusable Bag Ordinance in October and certified an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project. The City of Half Moon Bay was one of 23 cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties that participated in this effort.

A reusable bag ordinance in Half Moon Bay would ban single use-plastic bags; help deter the use of paper bags; promote a shift toward the use of reusable bags; avoid litter and the associated adverse impacts to stormwater systems, aesthetics, and the marine environment; reduce litter clean-up costs; and reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags entering waterways in conformance with the requirements of the City's Regional Stormwater Permit.

The San Mateo County cities of Pacifica, Belmont, Foster City, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Millbrae, South San Francisco, and San Bruno already passed Reusable Bag Ordinances either last year or just recently in the new year. This brings the total of cities and counties with an adopted ordinance up to 58 in California.

The County of San Mateo will be conducting outreach to retail businesses in advance of the effective date of the ordinance.

Still, not everyone is keen on the idea.

“I have not spoken with any other merchants so it is not representative of any consensus so to speak. However well intentioned, this is the wrong time to erect new barriers for commerce on Main Street,” said Mike Harding, owner of the store Oddyssea. “This ordinance combined with the pending sales tax increase to 9.5 percent creates the risk that consumers will view shopping in downtown Half Moon Bay negatively versus other alternatives. It's the wrong approach at the wrong time in my opinion.” 

What do you think of the reusable bag ordinance? Have you already been using your own bags, or purchasing recycled/reusable bags at retailers? Tell us in the comment section below.


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Yvonne M January 15, 2013 at 02:55 PM
oh goody! I have 90 years to buy reusable bags
Julie Walters January 15, 2013 at 03:02 PM
This is a great idea. I keep several reusable bags in my car and it has become an easy habit. This will actually save merchants money because they don't have to pay for bags. It will help with the trash situation tremendously-the Pacifica Beach Coalition picks up hundreds of plastic bags every year and we look forward to picking up fewer plastic bags now! Way to go City Council! Keep Pacifica beautiful.
CQ January 15, 2013 at 03:34 PM
So, will the merchants pass along to customers the huge cost savings of not having to provide plastic bags? The new profits must be significant for bigger stores such as Safeway and Lucky. Did anyone consider the health issue with dirty bags being brought on an ongoing basis to grocery stores counters? Some bags can be washed periodically but others can't.
Fern rosenberg January 15, 2013 at 03:52 PM
In some parts of the country, supermarkets, the major purveyor or plastic bags, are the only retailers required to charge the customer for continuing to demand plastic. No charge for using your own carrier of whatever material. This approach seem more customer and tourist friendly.
Brad Gigliotti January 15, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Great, now I won't have any poop bags for my dog, LOL Are they going to start charging 10 cents per paper bag like San Francisco does? FWIW I am all for getting rid of plastic bags, I will just have to stock up.
Steven J. Dong January 15, 2013 at 04:44 PM
We have this in Alameda County, it just started Jan 1st. Stores charge 10 cts for a paper bag. The CVS store says lots of grocery carts are missing as ppl are using them to haul things home. I just carry a cloth tote.
Claudia Reinhart January 15, 2013 at 04:52 PM
What a difference it would have made if "back in the day" when we populated this continent we had a Conservation/ ecological/ environment awareness ethos rather than a conquer/ posess/ develop/ ignor the consequences of our actions beyond our immediate perceived need and rights ethos. So the " environmental movement" started over 2 generations ago and we still toss litter everywhere, flick toxic cigarette butts without a care, let our dogs poop in our neighbors garden, dump our unwanted large items in any open space, and still don't recognize the gift of living in a coastal town. After the plastic bags stop polluting our creeks and ocean, what shall we look at next? Cigarette butts? Plastic straws and lids? Helium balloons? Styrofoam? Why are all of these floating in Pacifica's waters and landing on our beaches? Don't you want it to stop?
nancy b. January 15, 2013 at 05:48 PM
Claudia, YOU may be part of the "we" tossing cigarette butts and not picking up your dog's poop, but I think more folks, especially residents of the coast, are considerate of the environment and of their fellow citizens and don't litter. There will always be a group of chronic polluters who just don't care and are clueless as to the problems caused by littering and using plastic with abandon. These people need to be educated about the issues, if it is even possible to get them to care about anything other than themselves. Personally, litter makes me crazy, especially walking the beach after a summer weekend.
Chelsea Leonard January 15, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Considering that on your trip to the grocery store you'll be touching a cart handle and packaged food that others have handled, I think the reusable bags brought from home should be the least of your worries.
pauline January 15, 2013 at 08:44 PM
good news
pam tent January 15, 2013 at 10:05 PM
I agree. I reuse my plastic bags for cat litter disposal, to reline garbage cans and the like. Do we need to buy plastic garbage liners now--are they being discontinued as well? Who is going to clean the dog doo off the sidewalks? I agree some people litter, but this causes problems I don't think have been thought through.
Chanel January 16, 2013 at 02:03 AM
Finally, someone who has stated the obvious which no one else has apparently thought of. I use ALL of my plastic grocery bags to line my garbage cans in the house and subsequently dispose of my trash. What am I supposed to do now? Buy plastic trash liner bags? In the article it is mentioned how many bags wind up in landfill. Well, is that a surprise? We have the smallest "Trash" can Pacifica offers and rarely fill it. Nevertheless, I use plastic bags to dispose of my trash properly. It is hard to imagine that people simply toss plastic grocery bags into trash bags routinely but I guess people actually ARE that dumb. I will put the same amount of plastic bags into landfill as I did before because now I will buy trash bags, can't speak for others.
Sheila Edwards-May January 16, 2013 at 03:14 AM
As a retailer on Main Street writing from Bali where concerns about ubiquitous plastic have been a hot topic for years and change is coming slowly. There is nothing sadder than seeing black and white striped bags choking the subak water system in the rice fields. However, on the home front, I am concerned that we be given adequate time to use the bag stock that we have on hand. As retailers striving to provide services to our local and visiting friends the last thing we need is to have thousands of bags we can't use. What then? Do we dump them in the landfill?
Chanel January 16, 2013 at 03:15 PM
How come nobody is discussing the issue of what to use for trash bags now? Must we all now buy plastic trash bags for our household garbage cans? I thought everyone used their grocery bags to line their trash cans. Strange. Now I will need the little bathroom size bags, the kitchen size bags, etc., etc. Still putting plastic bags into the landfill.
Douglas Lober January 16, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Pacifica and half moon bay are both such beautiful areas. Reusable bags are a no brainer. Get in your car and just drive down the coast and look for single use plastic bags. I bet you will see 5 of them within 1 mile while driving. We applaud your efforts for sure. Keep up the great work! http://www.reusethisbag.com
M.P. January 16, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Why is it the grocery stores responsibility to supply you with free bags? If you use reusable bags the stores can put so much more in them instead of having to double bag all the cheap plastic bags in use today. Cuts down on bags a ton! By using your own bags it makes you a more responsible citizen!
Chanel January 17, 2013 at 12:37 AM
M.P. you've missed the point. I don't expect free bags from stores but I made use of every single one I've ever received by using them for trash bags. I own plenty of reusable options - insulated ones for summer, canvas totes, those horrible polypropelene ones, etc. Nevertheless, most people take their trash out to the can in some sort of a bag, do they not? Well, now I will still do that and so the same amount of plastic bags will end up in the landfill as before, at least out of my household. While there may well be millions of irresponsible users of the "free" bags I made good use of them, as I'm sure others have as well. It just seems ironic that now I will be buying plastic garbage bags for the first time in my life - the cost is insignificant but the irony is Hefty. Makers of plastic trash bags should see their stock prices rise.
pauline January 17, 2013 at 12:58 AM
we got along without plastic bags in the past, if you recycle properly, you can use paper bags for trash.
nancy b. January 17, 2013 at 06:23 AM
Be creative in your trash-ing! You could skip the plastic in your bathroom can and consolidate, and clean the can if needed.
nancy b. January 17, 2013 at 06:26 AM
I would love to shop at Oddyssea and be offered a chance to buy a cool canvas bag with the store's name on it...and maybe a cool whale skeleton pic...!
Pearl February 02, 2013 at 10:36 PM
I'm one who doesn't use grocery bags for my garbage. I bring them to the bag recycle in front of safeway. There are decomposable garbage bags you can buy at our local hardware store and there are also decomposable doggie doo bags that work great and are not damaging to our environment that I know of. I hope the day will come when not so many people are using non biodegradable grocery bags to carry their garbage to the landfill.
Dasha Bogdanoff Jerabek February 21, 2013 at 05:48 PM
I've been purchasing "bio-degradable" bags in different sizes for all the needs in my home, including the animal poo! There are bags just for that and they will naturally degrade in the earth, without the plastic which takes years and years to degrade. So, while we have to put some extra bucks to buy bio-degradable products, I feel it is WELL WORTH IT, helping to assist our Earth's Bio-Balance.
Dasha Bogdanoff Jerabek February 21, 2013 at 05:50 PM
've been purchasing "bio-degradable" bags in different sizes for all the needs in my home, including the animal poo! There are bags just for that and they will naturally degrade in the earth, without the plastic which takes years and years to degrade. So, while we have to put some extra bucks to buy bio-degradable products, I feel it is WELL WORTH IT, helping to assist our Earth's Bio-Balance.
Dasha Bogdanoff Jerabek February 21, 2013 at 05:54 PM
I applaud this effort and have been supporting this way of thinking and action for years! I must have at least 25 reusable bags and have learned to keep a few in my car as well. I purchase "bio-degradable" bags in different sizes for all the trash needs in my home, including the animal poo! There are bags just for that and they will naturally degrade in the earth, without the plastic which takes years and years to degrade. So, while we have to put some extra bucks to buy bio-degradable products, I feel it is WELL WORTH IT, helping to assist our Earth's Bio-Balance.


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