San Mateo County may jump on plastic bag ban bandwagon
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,"
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
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