9 plastic bags 1

Selena Armas, left, and Carmina Denis load groceries into their car outside the Grocery Outlet in Fairfield, Thursday. The Solano County Board of Supervisors are planning to meet with the mayors of the cities in Solano County regarding a plastic bag ban in local stores. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

Solano County

Community leaders plan to discuss plastic bag ban

By From page A1 | March 09, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Potrero Hills Landfill is a place where plastic bags end up after being thrown away, having served their purpose of carrying groceries and other products.

But some bags don’t go quietly into that dark night of disposal. A gust of wind comes and they take flight, looking like white jelly fish as they swiftly move through the air. Landfill litter crews retrieve them.

“It’s very annoying to see them along the side of the roadway,” said Jim Dunbar of Potrero Hills Landfill.

Dunbar wouldn’t mind if the bags never came to the landfill in the first place – and it goes beyond their aerodynamic qualities.

“They don’t provide any real value,” he said. “They don’t decompose in any real manner. They do become a litter nuisance.”

When Potrero Hills Landfill officials give schoolchildren tours of the landfill or talk to them in classrooms, they hand out reusable shopping bags.

More than 70 California communities have gone further than encouraging shoppers to take reusable bags to stores. They’ve banned stores from handing out single-use, plastic shopping bags. Solano County communities will soon decide if the matter is worth exploring.

Plastic bags have for years been a divisive issue. Proponents of the bags talk about their convenience. Opponents say the bags blow away, get into waterways and end up in the ocean, harming sea life.

Love them or hate them, the plastic bag is ubiquitous. California taxpayers spend $25 million to dispose of the 19 billion plastic bags used annually, according to a state report.

That’s only 2.2 percent of the waste stream. But plastics are 60 percent to 80 percent of all marine debris and 90 percent of floating debris, the report said.

Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan initiated a discussion at the Feb. 11 Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting after supervisors heard about proposals in the state Legislature for a statewide plastic bag ban.

Past state efforts to ban plastic bags have failed, Hannigan said. It’s important that the county look at the possible benefits of a local plastic bag ban, she said.

After the meeting, Hannigan said her concerns stem in part from representing Vallejo. The city has such waterways as the Carquinez Strait and Napa River where plastic bags can harm fish, she said.

Supervisor Jim Spering supported having county staff gather information on the topic, but he also cautioned his colleagues.

“Somehow, we need to get input from businesses,” Spering said.

Supervisor John Vasquez had concerns of his own. He wondered if a plastic bag ban would extend to the clear bags that people get at stores and farmers markets for lettuce and other produce.

“I would just be afraid of the unintentional consequences of something that gets enacted and people interpret it,” Vasquez said.

The Board of Supervisors could enact a plastic bag ban only for rural areas, where there are few stores. For any local plastic bag ban to really have an effect, it would have to cover the cities that are governed by city councils.

Hannigan proposed a presentation on the plastic bag issue take place at a March meeting among supervisors and the mayors from the county’s seven cities. The mayors and supervisors have these periodic meetings to keep in touch and discuss issues of mutual concern.

That Solano County-City Coordinating Council meeting with plastic bags on the agenda is to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Solano County Water Agency offices, 810 Vaca Valley Parkway, Suite 203, in Vacaville.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said the plastic bag ban issue hasn’t come up much in his city.

“I think it’s something the council needs to take a look at, yes,” Price said. “I know at Trader Joe’s, they have been very good about promoting the use of paper bags.”

But he’s concerned that a plastic bag ban might negatively affect a major employer such as Jelly Belly, which packages many of its products in resealable plastic bags.

Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce CEO Debi Tavey has mentioned the plastic bag ban issue to some of the chamber board members.

“They’re just thinking about it and don’t want to take a stance on it yet,” Tavey said.

Should proposed plastic bag bans gain momentum, the chamber’s Business Issues Committee would probably take a stand on it, Tavey said. The committee’s ideas would then be taken to the chamber board for an official chamber stance.

Of course, stores wouldn’t offer plastic bags if customers didn’t take them, even without a ban. But the bags remain popular.

Gysele Reed of Fairfield on a recent day at the FoodMaxx parking lot loaded a plastic bag from her shopping cart into her car trunk. She hadn’t heard about a possible state plastic bag ban or the harm that proponents say the bags can cause to marine life.

“If they ban it because it’s a hazard, it’s fine with me,” she said.

But, upon further thought, she made it clear that she likes the plastic bags.

“When they say ‘Paper or plastic?’, I say, ‘Plastic.’ I feel the plastic is stronger,” Reed said.

Plus, she can use the plastic bags at home for such things as kitchen trash, she said.

Davis in neighboring Yolo County is among the California cities that have passed plastic bag bans. It did so Nov. 12, 2013, with the ban to take effect in July.

Stores in that city will be able to give customers only paper bags at a price of at least 10 cents per bag. Businesses that violate the plastic bag ban can be fined $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second violation and $500 for subsequent violations.

The ban does not apply to bags used to package items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy and cookies or to wrap flowers, plants, newspapers and items that have been dry cleaned, among other things.

That’s the future for plastic bags in Davis. Whether it’s the future in Solano County and its cities or the state as a whole could become more clear in coming months.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Discussion | 17 comments

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  • Next DoorMarch 08, 2014 - 11:53 pm

    There is one of those darn bags stuck in the top branches of my tree I don't have a pole long enough to reach it while standing on the top of a ladder . I say go ahead and ban them but don't you dare impose a bag tax on paper bags keep your fingers out of my wallet .....

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • patrickMarch 09, 2014 - 4:14 pm

    I agree with you NEXT DOOR ban the plastic, and the Sacramento whiz kids WILL find a way to slap a tax on it, your lucky you don't live downwind from a mc'donalds.

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  • Steve PargettMarch 09, 2014 - 8:01 am

    Tell the community "leaders" to just forget it, and get on to something important. This bag ban was just imposed on the Island of Hawaii and all it seems to have done there is piss people off. These bags for the most part are probably the most bio-degradable plastic items there are. They do have many other uses and re-uses, contrary to what is said here. The reusable bags, made of some semi-woven fabric are not welcomed by many store clerks because half the time they are soiled and therefore unsanitary. They don't last long either, and where do we throw these away? Also, when people have no bag(s) with them, the items just get dumped loose into the shopping cart, and I believe it will result in an increase in pilferage.

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  • Suisun1March 09, 2014 - 8:15 am

    @Steve - "These bags are some of the most biodegradable products" compared to what??? Plastic bags take roughly ONE THOUSAND YEARS to degrade. Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it. I live in Suisun and it's just disgusting to see how polluted the waterways and highway 12 are when it gets windy. BAN PLASTIC BAGS.

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  • Steve PargettMarch 09, 2014 - 7:03 pm

    This is where we have a problem. Please try to define what is meant by 'plastic bags.' I am talking about the (usually) white, very thin ones that, for example, WalMart uses. Leave one in the sun for a few weeks and it disintegrates. Any others, including the big black ones that people put their leaves in, etc. might indeed take a thousand years to degrade. This is another issue altogether.

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  • Stopthefood TaxJune 02, 2014 - 10:52 pm

    In two reports, one by CSU Chico in 2011 and another by an Environmental agency in Wales did a comparison of bags used for shopping. Plastic won. Plastic bags do dissolve and in less than 10 years. A student was able to get one to dissolve in 6 weeks as his science experiment. Ireland's 2002 tax on plastic bags reduced plastic use by 90% but increased the purchase of packaged plastic bags by 400 %. Cities like San Juan De Capistrano that has a curb to curb recycling with plastic bags, shrink wrap and other plastic being sold back to plants that recycle them are the most successful in reducing plastic in the environment. A study done by H Sterling Burnett found that cities with the ban did not save money on litter.

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  • Salty DogMarch 09, 2014 - 9:10 am

    Every one get ready for a new tax on paper bags of should I say a CRV tax on paper bags. The far reaching arm of the government is getting closer and closer. This is another step closer to government control of our lives and less and less freedoms. Papa Obama will take care of you

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  • PornacMarch 09, 2014 - 10:19 am

    These are the kind of things that are pushed on to us when a Kenyan takes over the government.

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  • Cliff GenesonMarch 09, 2014 - 10:57 am

    Put a bag over the head(s) of the libtard(s) who come up with this kind of idiocy. Please stop the breeding of more of them.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMarch 09, 2014 - 11:23 am

    Cliff, what are you talking about? This is not a political decision. You just wanted get your idi*tic expression out there, you are part of the problem.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MarkMarch 09, 2014 - 11:03 am

    It seems like it wasn't that long ago when plastic bags were introduced in part to save the trees. Now its save the landfill and waterways...plastic bags are bad. Back to paper. In a few more years it will be save the trees again, ban paper bags.

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  • Salty DogMarch 09, 2014 - 11:32 am

    Mark just like the first earth day was all about global cooling and the coming of another ice age. That never happened now its global warming. It is nothing more then a political decision to push their liberal agendia

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  • M.E. FirminMarch 09, 2014 - 12:27 pm

    Plastic bags need to banned along with all of the superfluous packaging that comes with many products we buy. Local ordinances is a good start. Hopefully the Legislature will follow our local lead.

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  • Mr. PracticalMarch 09, 2014 - 12:23 pm

    This is the wrong time for the County to be considering this. Many of the bag manufacturers are here in California. Every time a municipality bans plastic bags we lose jobs. The state has a proposed ban that allegedly helps these manufacturers covert to making recyclable bags but the assistance is a drop in the bucket. California's legislature continues to make it hard to do business here. We are the 48th worst state for business taxes and by far the worst regulatory environment. Instead of considering a ban, the Supervisors should be letting the state legislators know that they don't support the state ban at this time.

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  • Joan ChevalierMarch 09, 2014 - 12:37 pm

    Let's have a campaign to publicize how the plastic bags can be recycled. Encouraging recycling would be better than banning plastic to the detriment of paper!

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  • CaseyMarch 09, 2014 - 4:11 pm

    Joan--agreed. It appears people just have a disregard for keeping things nice and neat by disposing of all trash properly including plastic bags by not letting them blow around. Traveling up into the northwest last summer, I saw signs in Oregon: "$6,250 litter fine". In state of Washington signs shout: "Litter and it will hurt". By the beauty and cleanliness of both of these states' roadways, it also appears their laws are actually enforced. Look at our freeways--trash and poor maintenance of landscaping, even brand new expensive landscaping gets installed and then never maintained. Trash all over; there's just no pride in keeping things nice.

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  • jagMarch 09, 2014 - 8:43 pm

    San Francisco has had this ban for over a year now and all of my co workers that live there just go to South San Francisco to do their shopping, God I got to get out of this state

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