Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 21, 2012

I thought it was a bird, but it was just a paper bag

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

At tonight’s City Council meeting the City Council will be considering opting out of the recent passed Alameda Countywide ban on single use bags ban. A nutshell of the Alameda Countywide ban from the staff report:

The ACWMA-approved single-use bag reduction ordinance bans the use of single-use plastic carryout bags as of January 1 , 2013. Recycled content paper bags or reuseable bags may be provided , but only if the retailer charges a minimum price of $0. 10 for each bag. The $0. 10 price wil increase to $0. 25 per bag on January 1 , 2015, unless the ACWMA determines this increase is not necessary to sufficiently discourage single-use bag use. This requirement applies to drug stores, large stores selling packaged food pharmacies, supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience food stores, and liquor stores. Restaurants, take-out food establishments, retail stores that do not sell packaged food and charitable thrift stores do not have to comply. This ordinance applies to all Alameda County jurisdictions, unless an individual jurisdiction passes a resolution to opt-out” of the ordinance by March 2 , 2012.

According to the staff report, staff is asking the City Council to delay on opting-in to the ban on single use bags until staff gets a chance to hold community meetings to get a sense of whether or not Alamedans want the ban or not.

So, other than being overly cautious about getting community input it’s unclear why staff is urging Alameda to be the only city in all of Alameda County to opt-out of the single-use bag ban. In fact Save the Bay has already sent out emails to its mailing list pointing out that Alameda has this on the agenda for tonight and have asked their membership to take action in the form of an email blast to the City Council urging them to reconsider.

And while I happen to reuse my single use shopping bags, it’s a ban I can live with and will figure out some other kitty litter containment vehicle, unless City Staff has a much more compelling argument at the actual meeting, their “we need to see if the public actually wants it” seems a bit lame considering that no other jurisdiction is contemplating opting out of the exact same ban. And so far all of the correspondence seems to be in favor of opting in to the ban.

Someone tweeted the other day and indicated that this item had been pulled from the City Council agenda, but as of last night it was still listed on the agenda, so just as precaution I’m blogging about it as though it is still on the agenda as listed on the website.   Also, I had totally spaced, but Susan Davis wrote an excellent summary of the debate on this topic, check it out on In Alameda.



  1. Another dumb idea foisted on the unsuspecting public. Where does the “penalty” money go? what measuring tools do they use to determine whether it is necessary to keep raising the fee? What if men don’t want to carry bags into grocery stores or retail outlets? Have they considered that shoplifting will go up as people walk around stores with bags? All they have done is effectively raised the price of groceries in an already mildly inflationary market. Did smoking go down when they raised the price of cigarettes? And isn’t the most packaging and plastic wrap done by industry? How about banning all gift wrapping, bubble wrap, plastic sealing, garbage bags and liners, bread and food packaging, etc.? I guess that’s next…

    What is wrong with engineering at the other end with recycling?

    Comment by Really? — February 21, 2012 @ 6:28 am

  2. There’s something fishy about this. Why wouldn’t we encourage people to abandon single use bags? Have you seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch photos?

    BTW, love Really?’s worry that men would be unwilling to carry bags into the store. Damn! I never considered that. Well, by all means, if it makes MEN uncomfortable then let’s just forget it!

    Comment by Denise Shelton — February 21, 2012 @ 8:09 am

  3. REally – I give your post a 2 out of 10 on the troll meter. If you would have stuck with either false smoking statistics, or sexism, you would have scored better, but trying to bring 2 red herrings into the argument at the same time is an automatic deduction.

    As to the agenda item, any city wishing to opt out has to do so before Feb 22nd. After getting public input they can always go back and recind the opt out before the law actually takes effect. While I wholeheartedly support the ban, this I think speaks well to some of the efforts being made by the City Manager and his staff to better inform and involve the community in significant decisions.

    Comment by notadave — February 21, 2012 @ 8:32 am

  4. It would have helped if the City had asked for ‘input’ sooner and not waited till the last minute. If we are the only City in Alameda County to ‘opt out’ it will just reinforce the perception of Alameda that others in the Bay Area have. The press will have a field day. We don’t need more bad publicity.

    I recycle all my plastic bags. I have brought my own bags to the store for years and the only ones I bring home are the ones you need to put vegetables in.

    You can recycle bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts at the packing store at South Shore. Take a walk along the beach on the ‘non cleanup’ days it is chocked with plastics. It is killing our fish and marine birds.

    They used the same arguments against the mandatory seat belts laws in the 70’s.

    Comment by frank — February 21, 2012 @ 9:28 am

  5. According to two really great sources (Eve Pearlman of Patch and Susan Davis of In Alameda) staff has pulled the item to opt-out of the county-wide ban.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 21, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  6. #4 — Hi Frank,

    City staff did do outreach on banning plastic bags, but it focused on the city’s own plastic bag ban, which wasn’t set to be implemented until 2014. The county-wide ban was scheduled to be implemented in 2013, so I think staff wanted to be sure the public had gotten enough information about the earlier, county-wide start date. After all, there has been some concern, of late, about public outreach/education in this town.

    That was the only reason for the suggestion that the city opt-out and the idea was that the opt-out would be temporary and that the city would opt back in soon enough to hit that January 2013 date.. But after talking to StopWaste, Matt Naclerio (PW director) and John Russo (city manager) decided to NOT recommend the opt-out because they felt they had enough time to do the necessary outreach.

    Matt Naclerio, btw, emphasized several times to me how much the city staff supports a ban on single-use plastic bags.

    Comment by Susan Davis — February 21, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  7. Moot:Pulled from agenda; agenda already too full [again]

    Comment by vigi — February 21, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

  8. The public had a chance to comment at one of MANY county-discussions through the Environmental Impact Review held by the county solid waste authority ( Plastic Bags are a pain: to the recyclers, to the landfills, to the fishes, to the garbage pickers along the freeways, to you in your home (you know they multiply like bunnies).

    Comment by Rjewell — February 21, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

  9. Gee I thought my argument was amusingly inventive, and no one has replied to the bigger issues I raised…(raising of fines, measurement of fines, uses of plastics in our society by industry, and addressing this issue by recycling). I assume the city will not implement this law until 2014 because it is not “convenient”- too bad citizens doubt get it slammed down their throats…

    And since when is it sexist to state that men don’t want to carry a bag around a store?

    The only reason the city even raised the issue is because they feared another hue and cry like after the trees were axed on Park Street. Don’t confuse the blogging world with actual public opinion.

    Comment by Really? — February 21, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

  10. 9: I don’t get it, Really?. Are you saying men are too weak or unskilled to carry canvas or nylon shopping bags around? I’m 60 but I’ve managed to do it for 20 years or so and not hurt myself lifting the bags yet, be they full or empty. (I can teach you how to do it if you need lessons. 🙂

    I’m strong enough to wash and reuse plastic produce bags, too–but I’ve only been doing that for about 12 years.

    I have not seen any changes in my testosterone levels from carrying bags, dancing, wearing a pink shirt, bicycling, washing dishes, cooking, splitting firewood, remodeling a home, backpacking, skiing, walking, breathing, driving, or not playing golf, if that offers any hope for you. I think you can handle it if you’re man enough… 🙂

    As to your odd economic arguments:

    1. Recycling anything costs more energy and is less efficient than not manufacturing the wasteful, one-time-use item in the first place. (Duh.)

    2. Recycling is not as good as not-using-at-all-and-substituting-a-reusable-sustainable-alternative because it takes more energy to collect, sort, reprocess, and remanufacture plastics than to make comparable but reusable products like cotton canvas bags. Most plastic bags get dirty when used and they are far less valuable and recyclable once contaminated.

    3. Technology is best when it’s appropriate. It is simpler,less expensive, easier, more sustainable, and less wasteful to reuse canvas or nylon shopping bags a few hundred or a few thousand times than to manufacture, distribute, use, and throw away or recycle plastic bags of any type after one or two uses.

    (I have canvas and nylon bags that are 20 years old and going strong after hundreds if not thousands of uses.)

    You ARE correct about the City of Alameda staff being “gun shy” about public opinion. But the overwhelming public opinion in Alameda–as proven by over a decade of progressively more successful sustainability and waste diversion efforts–is towards “going green,” not a fear of emasculation or a belief false economics or idealized but unreachable “technology.”

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 24, 2012 @ 10:52 pm

  11. I am in complete support of the ban. Plastic bags are a nuisance and should be treated as such. I’m tired of seeing these “urban tumbleweeds” end up in our streets, parks, and ultimately watersheds, where they breakdown and leech chemicals into the water. Recycling will not alleviate this problem, as it is created an under-educated populace who do not have the sense to properly dispose of these bags. This places a burden on cities and neighborhood groups to clean up the mess.

    Also, I don’t understand the shoplifting argument – that somehow bags brought from the outside would cause shoplifting to skyrocket. Shoplifters use a variety of means to accomplish their goals, so I don’t see how a “carry in” shopping bag is any different than, say for example, bringing extra plastic bags from said store and attempting to steal merchandise by placing it in the plastic bag.

    Comment by jmz — February 29, 2012 @ 9:31 am

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