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Palo Alto looks to expand plastic-bag ban

Original post made on Jun 14, 2012

Palo Alto's crusade against plastic bags will significantly expand in the coming months as city officials plow forth with a plan to ban the rustling creek polluters from local stores and restaurants.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 14, 2012, 9:32 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:40 am

"Phil Bobel, assistant director of Public Works, said the city is particularly concerned about small, take-out restaurants whose bags often end up in local creeks."

Seems like Bobel is painting with a broad brush. I would like to see the data of how many bags end up in the local creek and how many come from take out places. Also how do they determine the origin of the bag.

"Feedback from restaurants and retail establishments would help refine the proposal. "
But the decision has been made, so saying that feedback from retail establishments is welcome is a bit disingenious.

""It was always part of the plan that the ban on plastic bags at grocery stores would be step one," Bobel said."
The nanny state lives on in Palo alto.


Posted by Question, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

If relatively few people choose to use re-usable bags despite heavy encouragement (only 19% at this point), why does the city want to make a point of eliminating them? If the ban on supermarkets using plastic bags hasn't had an impact on creek litter, which appears to be the major metric for success, shouldn't we lift the ban, since that appears not to have been the source of the problem? How big a problem is plastic bag litter anyway in the scheme of our city's issue?

This policy seems more driven by ideology than results.


Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

Another bit of ridiculous posturing on plastic bags. Government organizations should work with manufacturers to produce bags whose components break down in landfills. Plastic bags should be recyclable, compostable. Very few are used just once. Most of us seek out stores -- outside of PA -- where we can get our fix and line our trash cans.


Posted by Art Kraemer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:39 am

The report doesn't say how many plastic bags actually end up in the creeks. A ban on plastic bags puts an undue burden on small food venders such as Subway. Wouldn't it be better to establish a fine for people who litter with plastic bags. That would place the burden on the people who misuse plastic bags rather than the small businesses who contribute to the city' sales tax revenues. Fining people for littering solved the dog droppings problem. It would most likely solve plastic bag littering.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:40 am

Next thing you know there will be a hefty tax on toilet paper and disposable diapers. Maybe even a tax on untrained toddlers. The city wants 'donations' to pay for water for the Foothill Park Lake.......but recently hired a new 'manager' at about $150K a year to oversee the MISTAKES make by SAP in the city's computer programs. THOSE mistakes have been going on for years - one costly program glitch after another. It's no secret to employees or to residents. It's time for the residents to 'revolt' and hopefully this time there will be some
qualified candidates with fiscal common sense.
PS Maybe the donations for water for Foothill Park can come from well-compensated 'top management' and retirees.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:48 am

This is RIDICULOUS. I have no respect for individuals who expand local regulation based upon nothing more than popular myth. There is nothing more recyclable than plastic bags. There is little petro used and it is easily compacted and recycled. Instead of banning them, you should add recycling containers at grocery stores for old bags.

Instead of common sense, the powers that be (or want to be) impose strict rules that hurt low and middle class families and businesses more than anyone else.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:48 am

I thought that with the "zero waste" program that Palo Alto wants, there would be a ban on flush toilets. The city could set up checkpoints to make sure that no plastic bags are brought in by traitorous residents that dare to shop out of town. We have to be the "leader" in everything. That is why we also need a $9+ million dollar bike bridge--to be more bike-friendly than Portland.


Posted by ap, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Lots of fuss about plastic bags. What would your great grandma/pa think about how we can't figure out how to live without them like they did. They managed to get their groceries and other goods home without a plastic bag. Just figure it out people and change your behavior so local government doesn't have to have creek clean ups and spend millions of dollars on booms and other technology to clean up your mess. If you are going to dig your heels in a fight for your rights to something, make it more substantive than a plastic bag.

Here is a link to some trash study info. San Francisquito and Matadero are two Palo Alto creeks that have been listed, according to Regional and State agencies, as "impaired" due to trash. 60% of the trash in creeks, in general, is plastics of various types.
Web Link

It costs the state $25 million annually to manage plastic bag pollution.
Public agencies in California spend in excess of $303 million annually in litter abatement.
Southern California cities have spent in excess of $1.7 billion in meeting Total Maximum Daily Loads for trashed in impaired waterways.

Source: Californians Against Waste, Web Link




Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm

"It costs the state $25 million annually to manage plastic bag pollution."

That's it?!

Talk about spending a lot of effort on something way down on the pareto chart. If we really want to fix our budget, there are a ton of other things with a larger impact than something as small as this.

Now I'm even MORE PISSED that we're wasting our time and effort on this.


Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Do like Europeans did--shopper carries easily compacted string bags, and merchants give your goods in the flimsiest of paper bags so at least there is a wrap on it, but too weak to be carried home unless it's in an outer re-usable consumer supplied bag.

No plastic bag in my house is ever tossed: used for garbage liner (2 x week) pet waste disposal, and recycled. If we ban them, pet owners will have to buy them.


Posted by anon, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I had a problem downloading Weiss's report from your link and from the city's page. I wanted to see if she had any data about discarded bags from San Francisquito or our other local creeks. When the city did the first step of this ban, they admitted that they hadn't checked local creeks, but relied on a countywide study done by an environmental group (that wasn't exactly neutral on the issue). I'd like to see an independent, third-party study on whether these bags are really a problem or not. I don't trust the city staff to do an objective analysis of this.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of University South
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

Gennady referenced other bag bans, noting that "(Julie Weiss, an environmental specialist in the Public Works Department) wrote that "Most of these require a charge for paper bags. These charges are usually between 10 cents and 25 cents per bag."

I did not see in the article whether the city will change the current 'grocery store' application to include the paper bag fee, only that it is considering widening the ban to capture other outlets.

I STRONGLY hope the study will look at the paper bag fee. Paper bags have their own environmental costs - in fact, when on evaluates the cost of producing, transporting, storing, and disposing of paper bags and contrasts it with its plastic counterpart, who is to say which is better, is less destructive, to the environment?

A ten-cent paper bag fee as is charged in many, if not most cities that have enacted the plastic bag ban should be considered in any revision of the current ordinance or program.


Posted by Question, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I would guess that the $25M is an allocated cost of a bunch of litter control items, not a direct cost. So if you cut some plastic bags, the litter picker still has to walk his route, the trash hauler still drives, etc. So we'd really save almost nothing if we just partially reduced the number of bags.

I would live without them, sure. But why? They are a useful innovation - cheap, light, resilient, re-usable bags. Again, seems like ideology more than data driven sense.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I am concerned that people are taking the figure of $25 million from the Californians Against Waste website as being the gospel truth. Is there any data to back up that claim. remember this group has an agenda, as do the "environmentalists" in the city that are pushing for these draconian measures.


Posted by Love-My-Little-Plastic-Bags, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm

> Public agencies in California spend in excess of
> $303 million annually in litter abatement.

Keeping in mind that the GDP of California is about $1.5T, this amount is not very significant. And remember—it's keeping low-skilled people in jobs.

> Southern California cities have spent in excess of $1.7 billion
> in meeting Total Maximum Daily Loads for trashed in impaired waterways.

It might be interesting to see a breakdown of these expenditures. It would also be interesting to see exactly what an "impaired waterway" might be, in terms of various pollutants, and detritus.

> concerned that people are taking the figure of $25 million
> from the Californians Against Waste website as being the
> gospel truth

Ditto. This kinds of people have no obligation to tell the public the truth, and every motivation to twist the truth to their advantage.


Posted by Polly Mer, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm

There's plenty of free plastic bags in the produce isle. Load 'em up!


Posted by Agree !, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Good idea. I've had no trouble switching to bringing my own reusable bags to grocery stores, including keeping some bags in my car just in case.
IMO the more we reduce the use of disposable plastic items such as plastic bags, the better it is for the environment. This is a no-brainer. Go for it.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm

We are surviving without plastic bags from grocery stores, but we do put all our meat in "produce" bags to keep our own bags clean. We have had Piazzas put our turkeys in plastic bags secretly without being asked. We have relished getting plastic bags from other cities and bring them home to use. We have bought plastic garbage bin liners. We have had family members forget their bags and bring groceries home in the rain in paper bags which have collapsed and called home for a rescue car to collect the required dinner items from the sidewalk!

As I say we have survived!

My reason for posting is that rather than worrying about more bans on plastic bags I would rather our city council spend more time sorting out the infrastructure mess rather than more time wasting on feel good issues.

After all, I can guarantee that any plastic in any creek in Palo Alto did not come from me unless it flew off a recycling truck.

Sort out the infrastructure. Forget plastic bags.


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm

What's really hilarious is this .10 fee.

Basically cities are allowing merchants to double-charge for these bags. You really think those bags are free when you check out today? You better believe that the cost of these bags are already incorporate into what you just bought. And, no, they aren't going to discount their produce to give you back that .10 you aren't spending.

Anyone who believes otherwise needs to understand how businesses work. Businesses don't pay taxes - the end consumer always does. Basic Econ 101.

And what's even more retarded is that it's a tax that - wait for it - doesn't even go to the city or county to benefit the rest of us.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm

To Resident "rather than worrying about more bans on plastic bags I would rather our city council spend more time sorting out the infrastructure mess rather than more time wasting on feel good issues."

THANKS!


Posted by Carroll Harrington, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm

1,000,000 plastic bags end up in the SF Bay each year. Creek waterways trash and plastic debris pollution is a serious problem in the Bay and its creeks, suffocating our wetlands and threatening our wildlife. Matadero Creek and San Francisquito are among the top most polluted Bay Area waterway, according to listed on the Save the Bay (SF) website.
Web Link

Unfortunately, the problem isn't just local trash from the Bay eventually flows out into the ocean, joining a three-million-ton mass of plastic floating debris known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Web Link

For photographic evidence, check out Web Link.

I was on the Reusable Bag Task Force, and it is great to see that grocery and drug stores whose representatives pointed out that converting to paper bags the almost impossible are now using paper bags.

I urge you to check out the Save the Bay (SF) website for more information.Web Link


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm



It is easy to manufacture biodegradable plastic bags--Mollie Stones uses them.

Reusable bags have been shown to be a significant health hazard

-e-Coli, salmonella-- and all sorts of nasty bugs breed in them

Very dangerous/lethal for young children, the aged, cancer patients and those with HIV/AIDs


Posted by Love-My-Little-Plastic-Bags, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm

> 1,000,000 plastic bags end up in the SF Bay each year.

This is another example of the never-ending gobbledygook that passes for logic in this town. Unless someone has actually counted the bags in the bay, tagged them, and can account for 1M new bags every year, this is CRAP!!

It's one thing to say, "by my estimate", or "by the estimate of Earth First", or any of the many so-called "environmental" groups that run around doing everything they can to dismantle our economy, and our culture, then this is just a number tossed out of an orifice in this person's body.

There have been a number of attempts to estimate the bags that enter the bay, but everyone of these attempts has demonstrated bad data collection, and bad statistics. No doubt some number enter the bay each year, but since people claim that they don't "disintegrate", how does one determine a bag that entered the bay on Dec. 31 from one that enter on Dec. 1?

This is not since, it's just another witchhunt!


Posted by Love-My-Little-Plastic-Bags, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

> since
science

> biodegradable plastic bags

This is the right answer, not banning all plastic bags--our useful little friends.



Posted by good stuff, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm

this policy gives businesses the incentive to start thinking about using biodegradable plastic bags, without it they would not change


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2012 at 8:22 pm

If the problem is littering, then address that problem directly, and don't inconvenience everyone else by these absurd bans.

The vast majority of people never litter. Would never litter, and consider littering an act against society in general.

With that as a rational basis, littering has all the attributes of a "Hate Crime", and should be dealt with in that context.


Posted by ap, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm

LA Times 6/15/12
City of LA bans plastic bags and imposes 10 cent fee on paper.
Web Link


Posted by Grizzly, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm

What can we expect from someone named Bobble? Of course the kind of people who live in PA do not throw plastic bags in the creeks. This is just an excuse to advance the progressive agenda. That's fine, I will just do my shopping in Mt. View. Oh, and the City Council? We elected them.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm

The only thing green about these bag bans is the greenbacks made by the large market chains who now charge you to buy their bags, and in so doing, you provide free advertising for them in the logos and messages on the bags.

In Palo Alto "Whole Foods" is the most common and I'm sure everyone recgonizes their logo with the leaf growing out of the "O" in "Whole", on a green background.

While I never patronize "Whole Foods" and most certainly would never use one of their branded bags, I would spend a dollar or two to buy a very similar bag. Same green background, same leaf growing out of the "O", but this one spells it "Hole Foods"

How about it? Any entrepreneurs out there with a silk screen? Parody this stupidity of bag bans, and you could make much more green than will ever be the benefit from the use of reusable bags.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Will the small paper bags for prescriptions at pharmacies also be banned? A paper bag is a paper bag. This could get ridiculous. Stanford Hospital uses 'paper bags' to package patients belongings. McDonald's uses paper bags for take out fare as do other restaurants...including the expensive ones. Enough of this big brother nanny -state legislation....and enough of this city council. "Off with their political heads' come election time.There are bigger issues to take up their time.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Update to a Town Square posting I made back in January. The posting:

"San Jose passed one of those plastic bag bans, effective 1/1/2012.

Well, there is an ethnic market I often patronize in San Jose (better foods, service, customers, and much cheaper than American chains).

I was curious how the customers there would react to the bag law.

First, the store does not sell reusable shopping bags. They did seem to be prepared for the new law, as there were stacks of paper bags at every checkout. Paper bags that would now cost 10 cents each.

Watching people check out, here's what I saw. No one brought reusable shopping bags, and no one bought or used any of the 10 cent paper bags. People brought some of the still-legal plastic vegetable bags to the counter, and asked the check out clerks to put small items in them. The clerks gladly obliged.

The larger items were simply put back in the shopping cart.

When it came my time to check out, I just followed the lead of the others.

So, it looks like at this market, Customers score one and Greens and shopping bag profiteers score zero."

Since then the store has tried and failed to sell branded reusable bags, and putting your groceries back in the cart has become the norm. It's done now in the in the same way the clerks used to "bag" your groceries. Frozen items are put together, as is produce, as is dry goods, etc.

Santa Cruz County recently passed a bag ban. The people of Santa Cruz have always been in competition with Palo Alto and Berkeley for "green" bragging rights. There are no issues here with reusable bag usage, except for what it does to the poor grocery clerks, and the frustrated patrons waiting in line behind this all too typical scenario:

The customer dumps a bundle of tangled, dirty, sometimes partially filled reusable bags on the check out counter. The clerk must then untangle the bags, and obey the instructions of the customer as to what items to put in which bags. Before the bag ban, checkout might take 2 minutes, bagging another minute, but now checkout still takes 2 minutes, and bagging takes 5 minute. All the while customers queue up waiting for this stupidity of customer supplied reusable bags to play out.



Posted by Seeker of Truth, a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Carroll Harrington wrote on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm:

"Matadero Creek and San Francisquito are among the top most polluted
Bay Area waterway, according to listed on the Save the Bay (SF) website."

There is NO data on that website proving the above assertion and I defy Carroll to show EVEN JUST ONE BAG in Matadero Creek. I have many friends in Palo Alto who live on or just off Matadero Avenue and/or Julie Court with Matadero Creek in their backyards and the water is clear and sometimes even has fish swimming in it.


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