It began at local supermarkets. Now, Palo Alto's war against the plastic bag is set to spread to every other food and retail business in the city. The City Council is scheduled on Monday, March 11, to take its most dramatic step against the floating creek-polluter when it votes on a new ordinance banning the bag from delis, restaurants, catering trucks and all other food-serving establishments.
In approving the ban, Palo Alto will be following the lead of dozens of other California communities, including San Francisco and Santa Cruz County. According to a new city report, 65 cities and counties in the state have adopted some sort of plastic-bag ban since 2009, the year Palo Alto passed its ordinance prohibiting plastic bags in supermarkets. Another 24 cities along the Peninsula are considering such bans this year.
Under Palo Alto's new proposal, stores will be prohibited from providing single-use plastic checkout bags (as opposed to those plastic "produce bags" that are used for fruit and vegetables, which would still be kosher). They would also be required to charge at least 10 cents for a recyclable paper bag or a reusable checkout bag. The fee would move up to 25 cents a year after the ban takes effect. Restaurants could use small plastic bags that surround take-out items such as soup, however.
Palo Alto's latest efforts to ban the bag will likely invite further opposition from the industry, which filed a lawsuit against the city after the 2009 supermarket ban. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to conduct a full environmental-impact report before it makes further bans. The council is scheduled to review and certify this environmental analysis Monday evening.
The city has been having a hard time getting the majority of its famously green residents to switch to reusable bags: The percentage of people using such bags went up from 9 percent to 25 percent shortly after it was instituted but has remained largely flat since.
Still, there are some hopeful signs. According to the new report, a 2012 survey showed that about one-third of Palo Alto's food establishments already use paper exclusively, with many more using a combination of paper and plastic.
The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.
Palo Alto shoppers may start paying for bags (Dec. 7, 2012)