Plastic bags to float out of Palo Alto? Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Mar 9, 2013 at 10:25 am
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.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, March 9, 2013, 10:07 AM
Posted by Some thoughts, a resident of Los Altos, on Mar 9, 2013 at 10:32 am
Los Altos is banning bags beginning 7/4. I won't miss the plastic bags, but I will greatly miss the paper bags because I re-use my paper bags to accumulate and dispose of my recycling each night. It would discourage me from recycling if I don't have paper bags to keep it clean. Or it may cause me to line an indoor recycling container with plastic garbage bags, which would be ironic.
I do not use re-usable bags because I don't want to clean them. Plus I would need to store too many of them in my car -- about 8 bags each trip to the grocery store. I will simply ask the checker to load my groceries back into the cart without a bag, and then I will probably transfer the smaller individual items to a box in the car.
Posted by Stephen Joseph, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 11:12 am
We will sue the City of Palo Alto if it regulates or bans plastic bags at restaurants. The California Retail Food Code contains an express preemption section, prohibiting cities and counties from regulating or banning restaurant bags. The Santa Barbara Superior Court has already ruled in our favor on this issue.
Posted by Not an issue, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 11:24 am
This is a shoddy, poorly written and unbalanced story that is par for the course for the weekly. They make claims about creek pollution, but provide no evidence-- just parroting the claims of the local environmental zealots. They also call the bags single use, but most people reuse them- once agin repeating the pap that the environmentalists have fed them. The streets of palo alto are littered with print editions of the weekly maybe they should be banned for the good of the environment?
Way to go Stephen. Hope you are successful in court. This whole thing is typical of the " green" mentality of our city and it's Mouthpiece, the weekly
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm
This is just more craziness that has come to characterize the government of the City of Palo Alto. The idea that the City can effectively ban legal products—like plastic bags—for no good reason is another clear example of how we are losing our rights and freedoms in this country, year after year.
Aren’t paper bags bio-degradable? Aren’t paper bags diverted to the recycling program? So, how does forcing people to pay anywhere up to $2 for paper bags when they do their shopping help save the planet, or make Palo Alto a better place to live? Are paper bags killing fish, or endangering other life forms—seemingly more important than humans living here in our town?
Sometimes it’s difficult to discern the hidden agendas of this bunch that thinks it is running our town. They don’t seem to be remotely aware of crime in our residential neighborhoods, or in the downtown business district—but they seem overtly concerned about a few fish that might, and one needs to re-assert the word might—be killed by plastic bags miles, perhaps even hundreds of miles away from the town’s borders.
So—what danger to “life as we know it” will be averted by forcing us to pay for paper bags when we do our grocery shopping? I submit that there are no problems that this clear attempt at social engineering will mitigate in our lifetimes.
This proposal should be voted down, with prejudice. We also should be given some insight into the internal processes that led to this proposal. Was it the idea of the City Manager, or some nameless “policy wonk” that believes what he/she reads on environmental/anti-consumer web-sites, than he/she does in our Constitution?
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm
I'm trying to think of any physical item which is legal to possess, yet illegal to give away (for free) to someone else who also could possess it legally. Seems a lawyer could figure out technical loopholes to any such ordnance. If I were a cashier, could I personally buy bags (of any type) and give them away to customers? How about me as a private citizen handing bags to people on the public sidewalk just outside supermarket property? I guess since it's difficult to enforce littering laws, it can be made an infraction to give away items which could become litter. Which is pretty much everything.
Posted by Another Reason, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm
Another reason not to shop in Palo Alto. Every time I think "hey I should try...", there's a convenient reminder like this.
Ah, Mountain View & Los Altos, thank you for your common sense, with everything from library to shopping, fast food to farmer's market, boutiques to restaurants all the same or frequently better than PA.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm
This has been doing the rounds on facebook recently and it is worth reading.
At the cash register of the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."
The cashier responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations. You didn't have the green thing."
She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycling. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.
We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wrapped up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gas just to cut the lawn.. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right. We didn't have the green thing back then.
We drank water from a faucet when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn't expect that to be trucked in or flown thousands of air miles. We actually cooked food that didn't come out of a packet, can or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.
But we didn't have the green thing back then.
Back then, city people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart-ass young person.
Don't make old people mad.
We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to p**s us off.
Posted by anon, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm
It's disappointing that only 25% of residents are taking their own re-usable bags to the grocery store with them. The City should do more educating about how this will improve the environment and reduce climate change. People don't know what's good for them. The City needs to enlighten them so that they're accepting of this Program.
On a side note, I'm glad the City has decided to switch to all green power. Previously, homeowners could opt for all-green power, but only 20% of the community opted for that, presumably because it cost more. Now the City has decided to switch all residents to green power. If people can't voluntarily decide to do the right thing, positive solutions like this need to be imposed on them. It's all about Education and Enlightenment!
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm
Having lived in other places which have already banned plastic bags, not using disposable plastic bags from stores just doesn't seem like a very big deal. It's just seems like a lot of whining over nothing.
Posted by Another Reason, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm
"The City should do more educating about how this will improve the environment and reduce climate change"
(shakes head) - the idea that making people bring their own bags has anything to do with climate change - that's the kind of woolly-headed thinking that often drives support for this kind of thing. Kind of like HSR before everybody woke up about it. At best, this is litter prevention; but it is barely even that. I guess it shows how our legislative bodies like to spend their time - why tackle important,difficult issues when you can do fluff like this?
Posted by European import, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 7:55 pm
@ resident of another Palo Alto neighborhood
In my old days, in my Western European home country, we would not have plastic bags at the grocery store and would bring our canvas bags when shopping, on top of bringing our glass bottles back, refilling our pens, reusing our razors with new blades, etc.
Posted by Bob , a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm
This is going to hurt seniors and the disabled very much. Many depend on grocery delivery.
And it's going to cost them a lot of money. This council will be out and gone in another term or so- like previous ones who have voted in idiotic ideas and laws. Many folks are now seriously thinking of just leaving - not living here in fear anymore - just wanting a peaceful life. The City Council should concentrate on SAFETY, more police, controlled traffic.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2013 at 8:45 am
European Import - The reason is that we used to do a much better job or reusing and recycling a generation ago. We live in a throw away society nowadays.
Why should greenies just talk about bags? Greenies should realise that things used to be used again and again, we were much more frugal. Why not make waves in other areas? Or have we progressed further than that?
Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2013 at 9:42 am
I can see bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocery store when convenient and when carrying packaged items that are not prone to cross contamination. But it should not be up to any level of government to regulate us or our stores. It at this point is too much government intrusiveness.
We have different ideas of what our PA city officials should prioritize: I think the city of PA and well-known needs and concerns rather than vague concepts that are unproven. IF there is a decisive local action that benefits the environment, fine, implement it, but IF it is questionable and will be to the detriment of seniors, then perhaps a lot of attention should not be devoted to this - there are other better ways to spend city official and staff time and taxpayer money.
Sometimes, one also recalls OTHER actions by city officials that are not so "Green."
For example, when I am thinking of Palo Alto government's concern to be "Green," I can't help recall the luxury travel junket taken by the former mayor and staff (city manager?!) to red China - can you imagine the CO2 put into the atmosphere for that trip? I feel that trip was unnecessary and undertaken on a flimsy premise that Palo Alto must engage with Shanghai and the red Chinese - ridiculous.
City officials, your priorities ARE at the local level. How about the police station which is not safe in case of a major earthquake? That is the kind of practical thing that needs to be dealt with.
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm
When buying Rx prescriptions at Walgreen's Friday, the medicines as always were in a closed individual paper bag for each patient. The paper bags were marked 'reusable'. Before this, bags were plastic. Now what? When asked, the pharmacist indicated 'who knows? ' The front-of-store checkout clerk said we'd have to bring our own bags. These individual bags are a safety item. In the mornings one sees numerous seniors brought on shopping trips from various assisted living centers and retirement residences and by Aveneda transport and OUTREACH. Does THIS city council have any idea 'how the other half lives"?? Could sacks found in our city be left behind by the estimate sixty thousand workers who don't live here? And are there really that many sacks left behind so that the 'greenies' are compelled to stick their green noses in everybody's business?
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm
Another side effect of bag bans is that they result in more frequent trips to grocery stores. Few people lug around 5-10 bags when they go shopping. Those of us who aren't in the upper crust of Palo Alto society tend to buy a lot of groceries when we can. We PLAN our shopping and also hope to conserve fuel.
Our family routinely shops at Wal-Mart, Safeway and Target and can receive 10-20 bags on a big shopping trip. Could you imagine having to carry boxes or reusable bags for those trips?
Thus, we would have to take multiple trips in order to use the few reusable bags that we own (and wash them EVERY time). The environmental zealots want to ban watering the yard -- but they don't have a problem forcing individuals to wash nylon bags after EVERY use (*which is recommended for health reasons).
IT would be interesting to see the evidence of damage that is caused by Palo Alto plastic bags. Claims have been made about what they are doing to the environment and water. Where is the evidence that OUR bags are being used this way? I can vouch for our family that we use them responsibly.
Of course, "personal responsibility via personal liberty" is never good enough for any Big Brother or Nanny State architect. When such zealots do not like or agree with something, their goal is to remove it from everyone else too.
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2013 at 11:14 pm
It won't be long before some elected environmental zealot -- who thinks that everyone must submit to the latest and greatest politics of politically correct hysteria -- will begin insisting that we all begin using REUSABLE TOILET CLOTHS. Won't that be dandy?
Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community, on Mar 11, 2013 at 8:28 am
European import, it depends on what time in Europe you are talking about. When I was there there were lots of pretty plastic bags advertising the establishments that dished them out...
On another subject, I still don't have an answer as to how much water is used in the production of these reusable cloth bags. "Embedded water" seems a neglected issue in the U.S. (not in Europe). We also don't always know, or maybe ever know, what the reusable cloth bags are made of.
The point about seniors and the disabled and poor is excellent. If you have seen, as I have, a parent with a number of children and a stroller for one of them struggling to get on the bus with many plastic bags, and in fact unable to get everything on the bus without going back and forth 3 times while the bus waits, you have to think twice about how that person would be able to bring that many cloth bags and carry them (they are heavier, bulkier!)...
On yet another subject, cities get a credit towards reduction of storm drain waste if they ban plastic bags, and that's the real reason, if not the only reason, for instituting the ban. The fine of $500 a day is something cities want to avoid and will avoid no matter how much waste actually ends up in storm drains. The storm drain credit could not be very openly acknowledged, unfortunately, with the result that much of our money was wasted on trying to sell the public on something that was going to be forced on them anyway.
Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community, on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:29 am
I think the stores keep the money they get from the bags. They have to keep a record but nobody will look at that record, if I recall correctly. I am sure that no matter what the bags cost, it's going to be more trouble to the stores than it's worth. It'd be great to see a tax on top of the bag cost. I think Washington state does that.
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:37 am
@ businessdecision: WHY would you want yet another tax in California? We're already taxed and fee'ed to death!
I was looking at a list recently that compared California taxes to the rest of the states in the union.
Not only are the state income and sales taxes extremely high, but the other taxes, fees, tolls, CRVs, etc... (which are a bit more concealing) are enough to put California on the top of the tax list.
Sadly, there is just so little in return for all of the money that is taken -- especially when compared to other states. Of course, we do have a massive state bureaucratic quagmire that we are leaving for our children though.
Posted by litebug, a resident of another community, on Mar 11, 2013 at 11:23 am
(former 38 yr. resident) At 74 I am old enough to have grown up with things as described by "Resident", but one can come up with a list of things that were worse back then as well. We did have paper grocery bags.
The plastic bag war had already started before we moved from Palo Alto and it is currently being waged where I now live, in McMinnville, OR.
With my physical condition it's easier to carry plastic bags of groceries with my arms down at my sides than to heft a paper bag up to chest level. Paper bags with handles help but are so big they drag the ground and the handles aren't trustworthy, in my experience. I've had too many cases of a paper bag full of groceries bursting when I was carrying it.
I have reusable cloth bags but I don't use them because I need the plastic bags when I clean my 3 litter boxes each day. We were told in CA not to flush cat waste due to problems with sea otters getting a disease from the sewage waste. Some litter doesn't flush well and others could kill your plumbing. We were told to put the cat waste in plastic bags in the garbage and that's what I've been doing for years, both in CA and OR.
Can someone tell me what, other than plastic bags, to use for cat poo (and dog owners have same need)? What sense does it make to refuse plastic bags at the grocery store and then go to the pet store and buy plastic bags made specifically for poo disposal? The grocery store where I shop the most encourages reusable bags but also has biodegradable plastic bags. I think these are the answer.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community, on Mar 11, 2013 at 11:41 am
I am also disabled and have very limited use of one arm and one leg. SO...I use a personal shopping cart (cloth) that I bought at Trader Joe's and it was very inexpensive. It's a great size (and very cute red). The wheels are great when I use it to take my groceries to the car and then into the house. Much better than lugging bags around.
Also: People have pets in places where plastic shopping bags are banned. I bought a role of small pet waste bags for mine. You get a zillion for just a couple of dollars.
The wonderful thing about capitalism is that the market steps in to meet new needs.
Posted by Not a problem, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm
I'm really surprised that such a trivial change gets people so excited. I've gotten used to cloth bags, they are almost free or very cheap. Have several in my car and yes, it is a minor nuisance but very minor. Still have lots of plastic bags from bread, vegetables, newspapers, fish, etc.
All of the "problems" people mention are soluble by using a little imagination.
I don't have an obligation to solve the problems created by someone with 3 litterboxes. That person can buy whatever they need, obviously they are spending a lot on their pets anyway.
Costco does just fine selling mountains of stuff with no bags.
Posted by Formerly Green, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm
Enough already. I am so sick of Palo Alto. Between the Plastic Bag Police and the Zero Waste zeros, that will require you to BAG your true garbage in plastic bags, no doubt (pet waste, diapers, etc) and put it in the BLUE can with your recyclables, this has become insanity.
Can we just FIRE all of the bureaucrats and their consultants that dream up this cr*p? and secede from ABAG?
Posted by cid4houses, a resident of another community, on Mar 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm
SHUT UP! as the teenagers say....
You don't even get an option for a bag at Costco. It's brung your own or roll it to your car in one of the empty boxes.... they don't bail them, they re-use them ...or rather, you, the customer will. Unless you put them in your car, they go back inside for more use. Not icky ones, stuff came in them in the first plsce, so it doezn't bother me. Sometimes I keep themf they are sturdy, and re-use them at home too, myself.
Posted by Charge for plastic bags?, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm
Can't we just charge 10 cents per plastic bag, so that if somebody needs/prefers a plastic bag, they can still get one? The cost enough will deter rampant use of plastic bags and encourage use of reusable bags anyway, and people won't insist on double-bagging if they have to buy the bags. When it comes to takeout food, sometimes a plastic bag is necessary, especially if you are getting soup and don't want it to spill in your car.
Posted by Sylvia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm
What's been working for me lately is having several of the re-usable bags that can be rolled up into a 2-inch ball and will fit in my purse. I used to leave the others in the car or at home all the time.
I'm rather surprised at the vehemence of some of the nay-sayers in this comment section. Guess they haven't seen photographs and/or descriptions of that giant, floating plastic mess in the Pacific Ocean.
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm
@Sylvia - You are the victim of effective propaganda. There were microscopic plastic particles found in the ocean, that is true (and bad). But that non visible result was matched with a photo of trash in a harbor, and sent to the world to create the impression of a floating dump. It was both extremely effective and dishonest, like a lot of the environmental movement.
Posted by gcoladon, a resident of Mountain View, on Mar 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm gcoladon is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
@ Mr. Recycle -- Thanks! I too had believed the stories I heard about a huge sea of plastic bags floating in the ocean, in the "Pacific Gyre". But when I just Googled(TM) it up, learned that reality is quite a bit different than that myth!
Wikipedia on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Web Link
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm
@gcoladon From the wiki page you linked:
"It consists primarily of suspended particulates in the upper water column. Since plastics break down to even smaller polymers, concentrations of submerged particles are not visible from space, nor do they appear as a continuous debris field.
But note the Sylvia says she saw photographs of "giant, floating plastic mess in the Pacific Ocean." There are no real photographs, because there is nothing you can see. I promise you she saw a photo like this one from an article on the subject which is either faked, staged, or of some trash in a harbor misrepresented as being from the middle of the ocean.
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm
@ Not a problem:
If it is "not a problem," then the nannies-that-be should not have enacted a silly ban in the first place. Like someone said, it is nothing more than politically correct hysteria perpetrated by radical environmentalists without evidence.
Posted by Gail, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm
I store my waste paper products for recycling in paper bags. When the bags are full, I take them out to my recycling bin. I guess I'll just have to buy plasic bags at Target, etc. and use them to hold my recycleables. Or maybe I just won't recycle. Since Palo Alto doesn't have any decent grocery stores, I'll just start buying my groceries in towns that don't ban bags.
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm
@JerryL - We also used to line our waste baskets by reusing plastic grocery bags. Now we buy single use plastic basket liners. These laws would only be half as annoying if they actually accomplished something.
Posted by Wake up call, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm
If I was a teacher I would be equally concerned about the tens of millions that Mandy and her husband Charles Munger Jr spent along with the Koch brothers to try to pass Prop 32 which was aimed at undermining the teachers' union. It is truly amazing what a blind eye our community has had toward the political values and agendas of our school "leaders".
Posted by Mtn View resident, a resident of Mountain View, on Apr 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm
Yes, Mtn. View just instituted the ban. I read the ordinance: it's not illegal to bring your own plastic bags. I just went to amazon.com and bought a box of 1000 for under $30 -- less than 3 cents/bag. Keep 'em in the trunk of my car, bring in a few dozen when I shop and happy to share with other like-minded shoppers.