Santa Cruz County May Extend Plastic Bag Ban

August 31, 2012 by adminify

Just a few months ago, Santa Cruz county passed a scaled-down version of a ban on plastic to-go bags and now officials may try to add some more “bulk” to the law.  The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing on September 25 on reinstating a ban on plastic bags for takeout food.  The original proposed law that went into effect back in March included restaurant bags, but that was removed during settlement negotiations to help resolve a lawsuit.

“The action we took almost a year ago was, in my view, a complete solution, and we backed off under threat of litigation,” said county Supervisor Mark Stone, author of the bag ban.  “I think it’s time to complete that action that we started.”

According to the settlement with San Francisco-based Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, there is nothing that prohibits the county from trying again.  That group has objected to a number of local bag bans across the state, and is now locked in litigation with San Francisco over their ban to include restaurants.  Apparently, a decision is expected shortly.

When originally passed back in September of 2011, Santa Cruz County’s ban’s inclusion of restaurants made it among the toughest in the country.  The City of Santa Cruz as well as the City of Watsonville have followed suit with their own versions.  The Watsonville ban will go into effect on September 8 and the City of Santa Cruz’s ban will be effective in April of 2013.

Santa Cruz Pictures
This photo of Santa Cruz is courtesy of TripAdvisor

A major lobbying force behind the county’s original ban, Save Our Shores, is in full action on the extension to restaurants.  They have enlisted the support of 27 restaurants in the county’s unincorporated area to back the ban, including Upper Crust Pizza, Aptos St. BBQ and Don Quixote’s Mexican Restaurant.  That doesn’t include the other establishments that have already stopped using plastic bags, including Zameen, Jack’s Hamburgers, and Charlie Hong Kong.

Supervisor Stone went on to say that if the restaurant ban is passed this fall, it would be in place as early as November.  He also indicated that it is not necessary to delay it to prepare businesses or customers like they did for the original ban.  “We’ve already done the outreach,” Stone said. “Everybody understands and most people expect it.”

One major difference in this amended ban would allow restaurants to give customers paper bags at no cost, whereas the ban covering grocery and other retailers requires them to charge customers 10 cents per bag, which will go up to 25 cents next year.

Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores, said plastic bags continue to be a problem on local beaches.  She also went on to say that people have adjusted quite well to the new ordinance.  According to a Save Our Shores survey, when the ban went into effect, about 10 percent of customers brought their own reusable bags into a store.  Just a month later, the percentage of customers that brought their own reusable bags jumped to 85%.  “That’s huge that it’s had that much of an impact,” Kasa said.



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