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Supes To Move Forward On Plastic Bag Ban

Next step is to involve representatives from cities in San Mateo County.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors will move forward with an , despite the concerns of those representing local businesses.

Supervisors and county administrative staff begin looking at the feasibility of the ban, which may include an in-depth investigation of the environmental impact of such an undertaking.

Elected officials and staff of cities in San Mateo County will be invited by the supervisors to join the discussion about possibly implementing a county-wide ban, which is intended to generate consistent legislation on the matter across all jurisdictions.

"I think everyone in the county will be interested," said Supervisor Dave Pine.

The agreement between county staff and supervisors was reached Tuesday afternoon at a study session held in the board's chambers located in the County Center in Redwood City.

Handled plastic bags, such as those provided to customers at the cash register of many stores and market, are being leveled in the sights of supervisors as most likely to be banned due to the environmental hazard they create.

The decision came to the chagrin of representatives from the plastic bag industry, as well as those from the business sector such as representatives from restaurants, grocery and department stores who would like to continue giving customers plastic bags.

A county report states an intention of the ban is to give rise to people utilizing reusable bags made of fabric or recycled paper to carry items, rather than relying on single use plastic bags at stores. 

Stephen Johnson, legal counsel for the Save The Plastic Bag Coalition, most staunchly opposed the ban. He said that restaurants would likely be hit the hardest by the ban, because paper bags are not sturdy enough to handle the rigors of transporting take out food orders from restaurants to the dinner table.

"It's very problematic for restaurants to use paper bags due to spillage. So hopefully that would not be part of the ban," he said.

But Pine later countered that concern by promoting the effectiveness of take-out food containers that are provided by restaurants, and how those may go to stop food from spilling.

Plastic bags without handles that are used to separate foods in danger of becoming cross contaminated would likely be exempt from the ban, said Dean Peterson, the county's director of Environmental Health. 

Alicia Rockwell, representing Lucky's Supermarkets, asked that should the ban go forward in the county that it be implemented consistently across the region in order to promote predictability for customers.

Menlo Park City Councilwoman Kirsten Keith and Half Moon Bay City Councilwoman Marina Fraser both said at the meeting Tuesday their cities would be interested in joining the greater discussion about consistent enforcement.

Action by the board of supervisors, such as a plastic bag ban, is not enforceable within the boundaries of the cities that have their own legislative bodies, which is why consent from elected officials representing the incorporated areas would be necessary in order for consistent implementation.

According to County Chief Deputy Counsel Paul Okada, the Board of Supervisors only has legal jurisdiction over the county's unincorporated areas.

Pine also said that a benefit of bringing in representatives from all involved cities to the table will help facilitate discussion about the roadblocks ahead of moving forward with the ban.

One of the greatest potential roadblocks is that a countywide effort would likely require an in depth Environmental Impact Report to inspect how the region's economy and natural environment may be affected by the ban. There was agreement between county staff and supervisors that there may be a shared effort on the part of cities and the county to bare the burden of sponsoring such a report.

But support for the supervisors to take the lead on the ban was unanimous between environmentalists, elected officials and residents.

"What you do in the unincorporated areas will effect how the city moves forward," said Fraser.

Allison Chan, representing Save the Bay, was one of the few environmental advocacy groups who gave support to the broad approach as well.

And resident Carolyn Chaney expressed her support for the ban too.

'I'm thrilled you are considering this," she said.

The board took no formal action at the study session.

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Judi McDowell September 29, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Instead of making more controlling laws on this. They should make it mandatory for buildings to be deconstructed and materials reused before any demolition it is such a huge waste. fERMA and the Pauls Corp. Of one marina project should be ashamed of their practices in wrecking the 5 huge office buildings as they did. I also understand they use laborers from Colorado Inatead of local for much warm. Beware fellow citizens!!
DrRossH October 06, 2011 at 07:13 AM
Congratulations on having the politcal will to make this necessary move. We and the environment will all be better off with out these single use plastic bags around.
Colleen Bednarz February 02, 2012 at 08:51 PM
SOS has been speaking in support of a bag ban for San Mateo County for the past year and fully stands behind San Mateo County in their effort to join other counties of California that have taken a stand against plastic pollution. Citizens and organizations are working together to put the health of your ocean, community, and environment ahead of plastic products of convenience. Join us in taking a stand against plastic pollution to protect your most valuable resources. http://saveourshores.org/

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