A key committee of the San Diego City Council came out today in strong support for a ban of plastic bags. The Rules and Economic Development Committee took a unanimous vote in directing staff to construct an ordinance that would ban plastic bags at city grocery stores and other retail sites within the city.
The proposal at this stage of its process would ban plastic bags in supermarkets, and other retail sites that include large stores that sell food, drug stores, convenience, hardware and clothing stores. It also has a requirement that stores charge 10 cents a paper bag, but exempting restaurants, nonprofits, food stamp recipients, and produce and meat products.
Another element of the initiative requires the city to provide for distribution of reusable bags as well as public education. Staff was directed to return on October 23rd with a progress report. The committee is also asking the mayor’s office to conduct outreach efforts with environmental groups and businesses that would be affected by an ordinance, and for the City Attorney’s Office to draft a law.
If the City ultimately passes this measure, it will join Solana Beach and 80 other cities in California, including Los Angeles and Hollywood. Encinitas is also putting together a similar proposal.
Committee Chairwoman Sherri Lightner told the media:
“San Diego is poised to become one of the largest cities to take such a positive step towards bettering our environment. This is about protecting our ocean, our canyons, our waterways and landfills.”
Lightner also said:
“They have a cost associated with dealing with these plastic bags at the landfill. And then there’s the cost of the bags in the storm water system, on the streets, roads and in our parks.”
Another supporter of the ban is Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, who stated:
“Plastic bags cause environmental damage that can be avoided with the ordinance being considered. Our neighborhoods, our beaches, our waterways, our landfills and our overall environment will benefit from fewer plastic bags. I will work with city staff to develop an effective ordinance.”
San Diego Councilman and mayoral candidate David Alvarez is definitely on board, he told the media:
“That’s a big part of this campaign … is to let them know the harm that it causes the environment and how easy it is to get your own bag and reuse it every time and it’s part of changing the culture.”
An unlikely ally is the California Grocers Association. Their representative Sarah Paulson Sheehy stated that her organization was “comfortable” with a ban on the bags, but they wanted the law to include all retailers and wanted it to be similar with the bans in other cities. Sheehy claimed that in cities where bans were in effect, more than 90% of customers were bringing in reusable bags within 6 months of the law going into force.
For years, environmentalists have been organizing to get the ubiquitous white bags out of our environment as plastic bags are found throughout the state, on beaches, watersheds and oceans, where some marine mammals and birds try to consume them.
Surfrider Foundation has been working on the issues for years. Surfrider volunteers collected thousands of signatures and delivered them to the City Council.
The City of San Diego just spent $160,000 in the most recent fiscal year picking up the bags, including those that hang out in the Miramar Landfill area, according to the Environmental Service Department.