The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors is poised to ban the use of plastic bags and place a 10-cent fee on paper bags that will escalate to 25 cents after the ban is in effect for one year.
If approved, as expected, the ban will apply to all restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores in unincorporated areas of the county. It is scheduled to go into effect March 20. The measure, which was approved 5-0, must be approved again at a second reading Sept. 20.
There are some exceptions to the proposal. For example, restaurants would be permitted to give customers one free paper bag for any food they end up taking home. In addition, those on public-assistance programs would not be charged for paper bags.
Stephen Joseph, counsel for the Save the Plastics Bag Coalition — which has filed several lawsuits in California against plastic bag bans — said he had no comment “at this time.”
However, a letter the coalition sent to the county Sept. 12 said “the erroneous findings [in the environmental-impact review] will be a basis for our lawsuit against Santa Cruz County.” The letter claims six specific findings are inaccurate — some of which the letter called “utterly absurd.”
“The Board of Supervisors and citizens of Santa Cruz County are being misinformed and misled,” Joseph wrote in that letter. “STPB does not accept any of the findings, including those not mentioned in this letter.”
A letter three days earlier had advised the county of the coalition's intent to challenge the ordinance in court because of the ban on the use of plastic bags for takeout food.
Nonetheless, the decision two months ago by the California Supreme Court permitting the Manhattan Beach plastic bag ban to go into effect appears to have re-ignited interest in banning bags in California communities.
Weighing whether to adopt plastic bag bans are officials in Los Angeles, Millbrae, Laguna Beach, Fort Bragg, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Sunnyvale, Monterey, Belmont, Daly City, Salinas, Santa Barbara, Novato, San Anselmo, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Tiburon and San Rafael; and the counties of Mateo, San Luis Obispo and Mendocino.
In addition, the West Contra Costa Integrated Waste Management Authority — which represents the cities of El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond and San Pablo — is considering a ban.
Outside California, the Colorado towns of Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Steamboat Springs are pursuing either a 20-cent tax or a ban on plastic bags. And voters in Hailey, Idaho, thanks to a ballot initiative by local high school students, will vote Nov. 8 on a plastic bag ban.
Currently, 10 cities and four counties in California have plastic bag bans: Calabasas, Fairfax, Long Beach, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Monica. In addition, the counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Marin have passed plastic bag bans that apply to the unincorporated areas of their counties. Hearings on the legality of the Marin ban are under way in Marin County Superior Court.
Altogether, 29 U.S. communities have plastic bag bans. The others are Fort Stockton, South Padre Island and Brownsville in Texas; East Hampton and Southhampton Village in New York; the towns of Bellingham and Edmonds in Washington; Portland, Ore.; the islands of Kauai and Maui in Hawaii; Telluride, Colo.; Westport, Conn.; and the Alaska towns of Bethel and Hooper Bay. In addition, the Outer Banks, N.C., counties of Hyde, Dare and Currituck also have a ban on plastic bags, enacted as a single measure for those three counties.
Two other communities — Montgomery County, Md., and Washington, D.C. — have 5-cent taxes on plastic and paper carryout bags.