Richmond – First Contra Costa County City to Ban Plastic Bags at All Retail
Tuesday Richmond became the first city in Contra Costa County to pass a plastic bag ban in grocery stores and non-food retail stores. The ordinance was approved Tuesday by a divided City Council and is set to take effect on January 1, 2014. The ordinance also imposes a 5-cent fee on paper bags for the first two years. After that, the paper bag fee will increase to 10 cents per bag. All paper bag fees will be collected by the merchants. City officials said the fee on paper bags is meant to provide an incentive to customers to use reusable bags instead.
The City Council passed the plastic bag ban despite objections from some of the council members and residents who complained that the fees may hit low-income residents unfairly. Councilmen Nat Bates and Jael Myrick abstained, and Corky Boozé was absent for the vote, although he did express disagreement earlier in the meeting. Myrick abstained after unsuccessfully arguing for a provision to exempt seniors and people on food stamps from paying the 5-cent paper bag fee.
The Richmond vote came hours after Los Angeles became the 77th and largest jurisdiction in the nation to pass a ban on plastic bags. There are many other cities in the Bay Area that have banned plastic bags already, including San Francisco, San Jose, Alameda County, San Mateo County, Santa Cruz and more.
Jennifer Ly, a sustainability analyst in the city manager’s office, said the city has developed and conducted a series of outreach programs and has distributed more than 5,000 reusable bags in recent years to ease the transition for consumers. Funded by grants, Jennifer also said that Richmond hopes to distribute 12,000 more reusable bags in the coming months.
According to a city staff report, the new ordinance will apply to “department stores, clothing stores, liquor stores, book stores, specialty stores, drugstores, convenience stores, etc.” Restaurants will not be covered.
Jennifer Ly also noted that neighboring cities El Cerrito and San Pablo are scheduled to consider similar ordinances this summer.