September 9, 2011
  • 9/9/2011 -- San Mateo County may jump on plastic bag ban bandwagon 

     

    By Bonnie Eslinger 

    Palo Alto Daily News 

     

    San Mateo County could become the latest local government to declare certain plastic 

    bags evil and ban their use at all retail stories in unincorporated communities. 

     

    The Board of Supervisors will hold a meeting Sept. 27 to gather public comment about 

    the proposed ban, which picked up steam when the California Supreme Court ruled in 

    favor of a Southern California city, Manhattan Beach, that prohibited plastic bags without 

    first doing a full environmental study. 

     

    "A lot of cities were waiting for that decision" before proceeding with their own plastic 

    bans, said Bill Chiang, a legislative aide for board Vice President Adrienne Tissier, who 

    along with board President Carole Groom is spearheading the county's effort. 

     

    They and others say the ubiquitous lightweight bags need to be eliminated because they 

    are not biodegradable and frequently end up in waterways, harming marine wildlife that 

    ingest or are entangled by them. 

     

    Banning the bags is "the right thing to do" for the environment, Groom said. "I've 

    participated in a lot of Bayfront cleanups and the amount of plastic that we find during 

    those cleanup days is insane," she said. 

     

    Dean Peterson, director of the county's environmental health department, said the 

    proposed ban would affect all retail establishments, including restaurants and department 

    stores. But only the handled bags filled with store contents at the cash register would be 

    banned, he said. To avoid a "sanitation health issue," produce and meat baggies would 

    still be allowed. 

     

    "When you've got purchases that get put in any bag, that's what we're looking at," 

    Peterson said. 

     

    County Counsel John Beiers said his staff is compiling options for the board based on the 

    different bans passed by other counties and cities, as well as the different types of bags 

    available. 

     

    Some Peninsula cities are also considering plastic bag bans. Millbrae, for example, is 

    developing an ordinance similar to those passed in Manhattan Beach, Long Beach and 

    Santa Clara County, said Ron Popp, the city's public works director. 

     

    San Carlos also is drafting a possible ban, said Brian Moura, the city's assistant manager.  

    Manhattan Beach had been sued by a coalition of plastic bag makers and retail outlets 

    that argued an environmental study was needed to determine whether a ban of plastic 

    bags would result in the use of more paper bags, which they contend are also subject to 

    environmental concerns.