A planned vote in Marin County on a measure to ban plastic carryout bags and impose a 5-cent charge on paper bags has been postponed for three weeks, until Jan. 25, while county supervisors review a planned legal threat.
The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which has successfully blocked plastic bag bans in other California cities, told the Marin County Board of Supervisors Jan. 4 that it would sue if a ban was enacted, because the county has not conducted an environmental impact report as required by California law.
The coalition argued that the ban could have a significant negative net impact on the environment if it results in an increased use of paper bags and cited the EIR prepared by Los Angeles County as evidence of that.
That environmental impact report, completed Oct. 28 for Los Angeles County, concluded that the negative impacts of a paper bag include 3.3 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a plastic bag, 1.1 times more consumption of nonrenewable energy, four times more consumption of water and 2.7 times more solid waste. In addition, that report said the paper bags also create 1.9 times more acid rain than a plastic bag.
Based on a conservative analysis, said the report, the county has determined that cumulative indirect GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions resulting from implementation of the recommended ordinances will have the potential to result in significant unavoidable impacts even with implementation of a paper bag fee and promotion and distribution of reusable bags.
That was one reason L.A. County decided to impose a 10-cent fee on paper bags handed out at checkout when it approved its ban on plastic bags Nov. 16
The L.A. County ban is scheduled to go into effect July 1 for grocery stores with $2 million or more in sales and retail stores with 10,000 square feet or more that have pharmacies. The ban would go into effect at liquor stores, food marts and convenience stores Jan. 1, 2012.
It applies only to unincorporated areas of the county where the combined population is roughly 1.1 million.
The most recently enacted plastic bag ban was passed in December by San Jose and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
Fourteen U.S. communities have now passed plastic bag bans.