Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto shoppers may start paying for bags

Original post made on Dec 7, 2012

A proposed new disposable-bag ordinance could force Palo Alto consumers to pay as much as 25 cents for every bag used to carry merchandise, if the City Council votes to approve the new law in February.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 7, 2012, 9:51 AM

Comments (72)

Posted by Kenny, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

>Palo Altans each use an estimated 531 plastic bags per person -- 34,803,864 citywide annually

Really? I heard it was 34,803,865. A bit overprecise for an estimate. Using "some 35 million" would be a more honest way of communicating the figure, while still getting the point across that it's a lot of plastic bags.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

Looks like the end of home delivery of newspapers. I don't like soaking wet newspapers...
or do we get charged and extra fifty cents a day to get a dry paper?


Posted by Jocelyn Dong, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Dec 7, 2012 at 11:42 am

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

Hi Kenny. Thanks, your point is well-taken.


Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 7, 2012 at 11:52 am


Why does the Regional Water Quality Control Board have such a strong say in how much trash our city generates and disposes of? We closed our baylands dump. End of story.

What are we supposed to line our wastebaskets with if this ban is allowed into law? When we lost our safeway bags we had to switch to CVS bags (which are a little too small but can be made to work).
What's next? Probably degradation in public health due to everybody trying to wash snot filled kleenex, pet doodoo, and worse out of their wastebaskets every few days.

130 bags found in the baylands from a city of over 50,000 people doesn't seem like much to me.

Another hit on our quality of life.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Perhaps, here are some comments.

One member of my family needed to carry a dry pair of shoes on each of the wetdays recently to change out of rain boots and finding a plastic bag in the house that fit the shoes was hard. It is not a good idea to use trash bags for this in case they get thrown out and paper bags would get wet and not be durable when wet. Then on the same day we needed a plastic bag to carry a wet umbrella and raincoat around school classrooms to prevent the classroom floors from becoming wet and slippy. We also needed to put a plastic bag on the bike seat so that the bike rider had a dry seat to start out with after a day in school.

We don't get many rainy days, but paper bags do not work on wet days or on days when grocery carts are wet and paper bags are put in them, if they have any weight at all by the time they get to the car there is no strength left and they collapse under the weight.

I miss plastic bags and since we do most of our shopping in Mountain View, we re-use our Target and Safeway bags when we get them for practical uses like these. However, Mountain View will also be getting out of plastic bags too.

We need plastic bags for all sorts of reasons and we do not allow our plastic bags to get dumped in creeks or the Bay. Please can we continue to have some plastic bags that are not trash bags - even if we have to pay for them.


Posted by Get Used to It, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm

@JerryL: You can buy specific plastic bags for wastebaskets.

WalMart in Mtn. View attempted a bag ban where they would not supply any bags at all. No doubt, it failed.

It's not effective to simply charge money for bags. There needs to be an outright ban so everyone has to fall into place.

Certain times, plastic bags are warranted but overall, new bag useage is extreme.

I use reuseable bags at grocery stores and sometimes while shopping at the mall. Clearly, if I have a shopping bag in hand at the mall, I pile every subsequent purchase into it rather than accept an additional bag.

What irks me is when I go to a store (Trader Joe's is the worse offender) and they double-bag unnecessarily. Or WalMart, where they underpack the bags, thus using more bags.

Our country should learn to use reauseable bags, especially at grocery stores. It takes a conscious effort to remember to bring the bags into the store, but it just takes training and will soon become "normal" for everyone.


Posted by How Come?, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2012 at 1:47 pm

@Get used to it - "Our country should learn to use reauseable bags, especially at grocery stores." - how did you decide this? It seems unimportant to national security, the economy, moral character, personal safety, or anything else we hold dear, to decree how people should carry their purchased items. You can argue that it is essential for the environment, but all the impact I have heard about is about bags in streams - which obviously doesn't relate to paper bags, and I believe is dubious in terms of plastic bags. Why do you think this is the least bit important - esp since anyone who thinks it is important can already chose to use any bag they like?

Why do this versus, say, implement a $4/gallon gas tax, or ban short car trips, or double the cost to park, or triple litter fine, or any of many things that would help the environment more?

I can understand why some might want to utilize re-usable bags - but the conviction of those who want to ban bags of any kind altogether truly baffles me.


Posted by Get Used to It, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm

@How Come?: Well, clearly in our haste, we have torched the spelling of the word "reusable". We could argue all day about what else we can do to help our country, but with all the bags dispersed each day, it's clear that we can do better by using reusable bags. What about the efforts used to recycle plastic and paper bags? A much simpler solution is to require everyone to reuse bags or pay a much higher fee than 10 cents to buy a bag. Charging 10 cents is not enough incentive for people to change their ways and use reusable bags.






Posted by plastic, please, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm

" A much simpler solution is to require everyone to reuse bags or pay a much higher fee than 10 cents to buy a bag. Charging 10 cents is not enough incentive for people to change their ways and use reusable bags."

I am not sure using punitive, draconian measures to get people to follow your example is the way to go. Especially given that reusable bags have been shown to be reservoirs for dirt, disease and bacteria.
No thanks, I will stick with paper/plastic.
Also the numbers in the story sounds a bit far-fetched (as to be expected from environmental groups). In addition the story is poorly written it presents numbers that are estimates and makes them sound like facts.
I will stick with plastic--I have plenty saved up to last me for a few years after the ban is enacted--and BTW, that is why I do not shop in Palo Alto anymore and if I do I ask for a paper bag.
I reuse all of my bags and do not just throw them out. This is another example of out of control "environmentalists" trying to force their views on everyone


Posted by How Come?, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm

" it's clear that we can do better by using reusable bags" - clear to you I suppose. To me it seems inconsequential. The strange idea is that "I think we could do better" = "government should force everyone to do things a certain way." I think the standard should be much higher. I'd like to get rid of many things - from single use drink containers, to oversize SUVs and undersize Smart cars, to cigarettes, its a long list - but the idea that the government should ban those things seems preposterous to me.


Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Whoever is using the other 431 plastic bags out of my annual quota, please stop.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I am getting tired of how a small group of people always want to cut off the head to treat the patient. I get that the plastic bags blow around and cause problems, but I don't litter my plastic bags I reuse them. Can't we find a suitable replacement?

Working in a retail environment many customers will not bring a bag with them or just come in on impulse, what should I but there $3000 purchase in? So now the retailer ends up the bad guy.

Also, I walk to most places, so I don't have a trunk of my car available to store a pile of reusable bags in when I go shopping. Silly me, I should just drive to the store instead.


Posted by I will use plastic, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

This is all part of the local " nanny" mentality,.where these " experts live to lectureus on how we should be living our lives. These same elected officials have run our city into the ground, yet they still have time to act as shills for the local environmental zealots.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm


If only the politicos were as aggressive against graffiti as they are against plastic bags, they might actually be able to do something that would clean up the environment.




Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm

If people didn't toss so many of their plastic bags into our creeks and baylands, then laws like this wouldn't be necessary.


Posted by HUTCH 7.62, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Such a progressive thing to do, tax everyone into oblivion any way you can. I guess I should just except it as the cost of doing bussiness in Chino Alto, Meanwhile the Democrats wonder why the middle class is vanishing.


Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2012 at 9:56 pm

There already is a tax on these bags. The city spends a lot of money pulling them out of the creeks and baylands and other places that people dump them. They are not biodegradable, so they have to be picked up by hand. That labor comes from your tax dollars.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Please stop telling us to stop dumping bags in creeks and the Bay. Yes, I am sure some people may let their bags blow away, but the majority of us do not. Some people smoke and leave butts around. Some people buy a candy bar and let the wrapper blow away. However, the majority of people in Palo Alto dispose of their bags and other litter properly and recycle and reuse as much as is practical.

On the other hand, I have seen trash trucks on the highway slowly losing their load on more than one occasion.

This is another case of silly laws that restrict the majority because of a few miscreants.


Posted by Restaurant Customer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2012 at 11:56 pm

No one has commented on the effects on restaurant takeout. I have already experienced food spills from the inadequate paperboard cartons that many restaurants seem to be using to replace styrofoam (which was not completely spill-proof either). Luckily, when sauce or juice would spill out of these cartons, at least it would be kept inside the plastic bags that the cartons were in.

Now, we are threatened by having takeout in unsuitable cartons put inside unsuitable bags (if we get a bag at all). Bringing one's own reuseable bag is clearly not a solution — it might contain a spill, but it will still create a mess, and bacterial cross-contamination between the food and the bag is not at all unlikely.

Bag banners, what is our reasonable alternative to be? Are we all just supposed to cook all meals at home with the organic, locally-sourced, sustainably grown vegan items we have purchased from farmers' markets?? Sorry, some of us actually enjoy the wide variety of restaurants and cuisines in Palo Alto, and some of us eat reasonable enough portions that we regularly tote home leftovers, and we prefer them to arrive at home with as little mess as possible.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2012 at 3:04 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Let's do some arithmetic:
531 plastic bags/year/person = 1.45bags/day/person

130 plastic bags in the Baylands & creeks &... over a 6 week period = 3.1 bags/day = number of bags used by 2.1 persons on that day

----
And about that 531 bags/yr/person, just how was this calculated?
- How do you filter out people from out-of-town (including employees) who shop in Palo Alto?
- How do you count the bags used by Palo Altans shopping outside Palo Alto?

----
And what about a full end-to-end accounting of the cost of plastic bags.
1. Accounting assumes absolutely no reuse of plastic bags, when a fraction are reused, especially for garbage.
2. In earlier debates on plastic bags, various accountings were that paper bags were worse for the environment. Paper bags that wind up in landfill -- eg used for garbage bags -- take much more space. And they can have larger environmental footprints.
3. Although reusable bags may be required to be _capable_ of surviving X uses and Y cleanings, my experience has been that they begin to _look_ ratty fairly quickly when used with items that spill -- although clean in the hygienic sense, they are visibly stained. In a community such as Palo Alto, what is likely to be the actual lifespan of such bags? Since they require far more resources than disposable plastic bags -- manufacture, cleaning, disposal -- are uses where they are likely have spills actually cost-effective?

----
Logistics: When I go to the grocery store, I carry in a reusable bag containing 6-8 folded up reusable bags. Many stores require you to check your backpack or bicycle panier at the entrance. Would they not require the same of a bundle of reusable bags?

----
My frustration with the Green movement is that it is routinely dismissive of considerations of cost-effectiveness. It is as if their slogan is "It's not how little we accomplish, but how much it costs."


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2012 at 3:25 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

PS to previous comment: On checking bags: While it makes sense for stores to ask you to check bags/backpacks/... which contain items that are difficult to distinguish from merchandise in the store, this is not the policy statements I have encountered. Those policy statements say "bags" without excluding empty bags. If you are carrying 2-3 folded up reusable bags there usually is no complaint, but there are places where the clerk or security guard believes they need to strictly enforce the literal statement.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2012 at 8:40 am

Frankly, these environmental zealots are making me sick. And the cities are more and more
acting like communist nanny-states looking over our shoulders. Palo Alto has more problems to solve than this, but when it and other cities hired an environment czar, he had to justify his position and the trouble really started. Soon babies can't come home from the hospital unless toilet trained, elderly banished on the first-leak, and females not welcome.
Stop this madness now.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

There's no mention in the article where the money goes for these fees. Does the retailer get to keep the money, or is this another sales tax that they must collect for "government"?

It the Council passes this ordinence, it should be overturned by a ballot item. This is another example of too much power in the hands of people who don't understand how to define problems, much less come up with meaningful solutions.

Just another reason not to "Shop Palo Alto"!



Posted by spoiled commenters, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 8, 2012 at 11:01 am

Based on most of the above comments, one could wonder how humankind was able to survive without plastic bags until, what, 50 or 60 years ago. Please get over yourselves.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 8, 2012 at 11:54 am

> And about that 531 bags/yr/person, just how was this calculated?

There are somewhere around 150K-200K (or more) unique people in Palo Alto every day (residents, shoppers, workers, visitors, etc.). So, depending on which number one uses (and how that number was estimated), then it's quite possible to get 4-10 different bags/person/day numbers.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I always request paper bags, if possible, and I then use them to put my trash in. They are biodegradable and don't get into creeks or wildlife. They are recyclable. You can also take them back to the grocery store and use them several times. If I can't get paper bags at the grocery store, I will have to BUY PLASTIC trash can liners. Not biodegradable, and going in the wrong direction.

I don't use bring-your-own cloth bags because they get germy. Look at the conveyer belt at the check-out stand. It's dirty, you can see stuff on it, and the clerks don't clean it off. Plus, some of your groceries might leak into the bag. So, then you have to wash the bags -- use more water, detergent into the bay, higher water bill, etc. Dumb.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I prefer the carrot to the stick approach. I prefer less government invasiveness in our lives. Sensible information/education campaigns can improve behavior. There is going to have to be some government cleanup in any case - you will never achieve perfection/utopia.
I carry reusable bags but on occasion have a need for an impulse purchase/gift - or my route changed - or I am in someone else's car, etc., etc. and the notion that one cannot be supplied a plastic or paper bag at checkout/takeout is ridiculous. I would never throw a plastic bag out in the environment such that it ends up clogging a creek, I imagine a lot of stuff blows off of or is thrown out of vehicles traveling down 101?! OUt of town people are less likely to care about OUR local environment!
I worry about the damage being done to local merchants. Asking "Do you want a bag?" is fine - fining someone is a punitive-style thing and nasty.


Posted by BusyBev, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Isn't a large part if this bag issue one of cracking down on those who litter.
Why must I be punished and pay a bag fee because of those who toss their trash anywhere? I recycle paper and plastic bags, and I also use my own bags. It is easy so I cannot understand why we, who do right, must suffer most.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm

A lot of the silly comments here are basically of the form - "I'd be ecological, but I don't like being forced, or having to pay, or being asked or told the wrong way."

Well, isn't that just too bad. We have a problem, and intractable problem that has avoided solution for decades.

Whatever works or seems like it might work should be tried. If it is terrible, change it to something else, but the status quo is costing us a lot more than money that we do not see and thus do not react to, it is part of a system that we need to get people used to the idea of improvement, change and how to accept and insitutionalize change without having to cater to he most nonsensical negative people.

Charging on a per bag basis is not going to kill anyone, and it could very well be the way to get people to start to think about the cost of bags and what to do about it.


Posted by Fad, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm

This strikes me as a fad. Easy for local government to do, "feels good" (at least for some people), "doing something about the environment" (though it is, after all, just litter, which is not a huge problem in our town). Cost is passed on to others, a vocal minority supports it, and most just shrug. It could work out fine or it could work out in retrospect just to be a frivilous "feel good" activity, that doesn't really impact anything important. I find it interesting on some of these things just catch on, even with limited merit like this one. I just wish we weren't in the flaky vanguard on this kind of thing. Luckily the MP Safeway loaded me up with plastic bags today ;-)


Posted by enough, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm

If only our elected officials would display such zeal to fix our infrastructure or deal with financial matters instead of kowtowing to the demands of environmental zealots that have learned how to cook the books so that the numbers look like plastic bags are leading us towards armageddon!!!!
Enough of this social engineering in Palo Alto.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Wayne Martin's comment on my "And about that 531 bags/yr/person, just how was this calculated?"

35M bags/year (cited in article) = 351 bags/yr/person (cited in article) * 66K people (residents of Palo Alto)

This relationship shows that one of the numbers was derived from the other, but it is not only unclear which, but how that number itself was derived.

Concern: Palo Alto government has a long history of knowingly using irrelevant statistics to drive policy. For example, the decision on whether to have a separate recycling stream for paper was based upon experience in cities where the residents were not only new to recycling, but where there was widespread antipathy to it and even resistance (vs Palo Altans who had long experience with recycling and supported it).


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I think I have a better idea.

No taxes/fees to satsify the zero-waste zealots. Just put everything in one disposal container, picked up by only one disposal truck, once a week. This truck would take it down to the Palo Alto dump (or at least the ten acres newly undedicated). Add in used tires, and many other hard-to-eliminate disposables, including human sewage sludge. Employ plasma arc to reduce everything to energy and vitrified slag. Use the slag to build up our water barriers. Use the net energy produced to provide electrical power to our city. Bingo, so many problems solved in one stroke!

Plasma arc is not perfect, but it satisfies most of the concerns. It is completely superior to anaerobic digestion and inane schemes of complicated sorting streams. How many of us want to scrape our wet scraps into even another container, and yet another truck to pick them up?

We should not be buying into the zero-waste-movement crazies. They have already done too much damage to our city.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Corrections to my previous:
Typo in "351 bags/yr/person (cited in article)": should have been "531 bags ..."

Poor phrasing in last paragraph: The City decided to _not_ have a separate stream for paper -- which would have increased its value -- because the additional bin had been found to suppress the amount of recycling in cities where it had just begun. This was part of a successful effort by some of PA's green advocates in alliance with Waste Management Inc to take the recycling business away from a facility co-owned by the City and give it to WMI (which also incurred substantial penalties to the City because it then failed to deliver its contracted materials to the facility). (for details, look for "Environmental Services Center" (ESC) circa 2005).


Posted by Carrie, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Maybe we can all bring in a huge sheet and put our groceries in it and tie it in a knot. then we can take it home unload it and wash our sheet in the laundry. Nothing to clog up our creeks.


Posted by Garbage Can Liners, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Well, if the City is going to make me pay for bags to line my garbage container, I'll just go over to Costco and buy my own, it's much cheaper than paying the 25 cents for paper.

Hurrah!! for Costco's garbage container plastic bag liners. Since Costco is in Mnt Vw our silly PA City Council won't be able to tell Mountain View to stop selling plastic bags.


Posted by Dick, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2012 at 9:13 pm

A lot of plastic bags blowing along the freeways are because of trucks which don't cover their load, and the trash blows out all over the place. These are much more likely to get into streams, etc., than responsible green Palo alto residents' bags. Maybe the fines and enforcement efforts should be directed at these trucks.


Posted by Not a problem, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I have a sack full of bags that I use for garbage bags -- left from bread, from vegetables, from all department stores, from newspapers, and on and on.
I don't understand what the nervous nellies are so worried about, maybe they throw out the perfectly good bags that food comes in, without thinking about re-use. Even empty milk cartons are good for stuff like vegetable and meat waste.
The concern about being "forced" and "suffering" from a reduction in plastic bags seems a bit melodramatic and a little juvenile.


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2012 at 7:31 am

Number of years ago, had the chance to fix up house and yards in a place I was calling home. You know the type of place, 8 years worth of unkept yards, a catch all for trash.

While I spent most of one summer removing dead trees, weeds, ivy and tomatoes plants. Yes they grow year after year. Dirt and lots of dirt, you could give away clean dirt which meant had to separate the trash from my dirt. Out of all the trash, those white plastic bags kept their color, didn't show any sign of breaking down or hide their origins. What store they came from.

8 years is a long time to be under lots of dirt. Beer cans were showing signs of breaking down, along with Hefty bags, gardening tools, wood, and certain plastic items.


Posted by homeless, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 9, 2012 at 8:26 am

Plastic is very good in some hot sunny states when used to protect plant roots from heat and water vaporizing. It can help plants and trees to grow by keeping the ground moist in places where plants would not otherwise grow and little water is available. It's especially good on top of black soil ; plants can survive long periods of drought.


Posted by Bob , a resident of Community Center
on Dec 9, 2012 at 9:47 am

The city and the council had better tread carefully here. It already has the public's super ire over 27 University. City Hall is already a laughing stock. One of the problems is that staff who make up these idiotic rules and regulations don't even live here. Proof of that when the question was posed publicly over waste disposal, garbage cans, searching garbage cans, etc. No, none of them lived here. City of Palo Alto - get off of our backs. Take care of the budget, the streets, the crime, the traffic - but get out of our kitchens, bathrooms, and yards. Enough of this regulated nanny-state. Council - help the budget and get rid of all these unnecessary staff. Maybe the trash is left by 'other people', tourists, sports attendees. Ever monitor those garbage trucks on 101?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2012 at 9:56 am

Perhaps it's obvious to most, but let's add a little hard data to the discussion about the use of plastic bags by Palo Alto residents.

Consider the following from the 2010 Census Data--

The 2010 Census provides the basic age breakdown for Palo Alto:

Persons under 18: 23.4%
Persons over 65: 17.1%

The people (40%) in the "under-18" and "over-65" age groups are not likely to be "consuming" at the same rates as those "over-18" and "under-65" (60%).

Another point that needs to be made is that non-residents are also consumers of products that might be wrapped/placed in plastic bags. The people are quite likely to take their purchases to their homes, outside of Palo Alto—so that the total number of unique people consuming plastic bags is both much larger than the population of Palo Alto, and probably unknowable, on face value. Moreover, those plastic bags do not end up in the Palo Alto waste collections, or Palo Alto's public places/spaces.

Therefore, any calculation involving the population of Palo Alto in terms of plastic bag use is clearly wrong, and therefore meaningless!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

I have counted my plastic bag acquisition in the past week. Apart from produce bags which are used for produce and for meat (which are always in leaky saranwrap and styrofoam unless I get the meat from the meat counter at Piazzas) I have two Target bags, one Bed Bath & Beyond bag and one Sports Authority bag, all of which are for Christmas shopping items that are not regular purchases.

All of these are stored in my kitchen for reuse including the bags from bread (which are always double wrapped).

Not one of these is likely to be dumped anywhere.

If you want to do something useful, why not ban double wrappers on bread? Get the manufacturers not the consumers for a change!




Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2012 at 10:54 am

Found out that Hefty bag material was sold by the and used in ground cover as a barrier for landscaping or other used in the yard. As for plastic bags why not allow the first 2 to be free.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

The article says that "During a six-week period in September and October, city staff found approximately 130 plastic bags in the Palo Alto baylands, along creeks and in Foothills Park and around Stanford University."

This works out to 1,127 plastic bags per year.

The article also states that "Palo Altans use about 531 plastic bags per person annually".

So what amounts to equivalent of 2 people out of a population of 65,000, the city wants to put in place an entire bureaucracy, and increase administrative costs for businesses, and increase consumer costs... Doesn't sound even remotely cost effective.


Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm

A co-worker said she wouldn't vote for Romney because he wouldn't understand what it was like having to pay the orthodontist bill for her kid, etc., etc. I felt like saying, "And Obama understands?" Now I feel like saying, "and City Council members understand?"
Join me on the bus with a poor family struggling with babies, children, strollers, and lots of bags. They can't afford a babysitter for the kids, they can't afford a car, they can't afford multiple bus trips. They need those lightweight plastic bags!!! Don't keep on stubbornly picturing people keeping an assortment of cloth bags in their car.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Plastic or not, I think that Mother will still be struggling with shopping, kids, the stroller while getting on the bus. If you want to help, why not donate cloth bags. As for leaving them in the car, take them to the car in the morning or whenever you are near your car.


Posted by member, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I love and agree with the new name "Chino Alto" I thought they already passed the stupid rule because I recently had to buy a bag for several small gift items that I was purchasing in Town and Country, and the clerk told me she would have to charge me an extra 25 cents. She told me that she was embarrassed to have to explain this to her customers, and she ended up giving me a huge bag for my little purchases. "Might as well take a big bag" if you have to pay for it anyway she said. I don't need a Nanny you dumb knuckle heads. I already re-use bags as much as I think to, but once in awhile there I'll be without a bag, and your going to put me in a corner and punish me like an aggressive NANNY!!!!


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Has anyone ever noticed how hard we are making it on middle class moms, single or not? The rich women hire their own staff to do the heavy liftling. The rich men just write checks.

All this guilt trip about zero waste only adds to their (middle class women) burdens. I think we should be trying to make it easier on them, not harder. Many of the zero waste elitists could care less, but I do.

The zero waste nonsense should be ignored. Just put our garbage in one container, picked up once per week, then use the best techonologies to deal with it. I prefer plasma arc, perhaps after a recycle sort at an appropriate sorting site.

What rational middlde class woman would decide to have another child, in such a severe cultural environment, as we now have in Palo Alto?

These elitists, who push these zero waste agendas are wholly lacking in compassion for those who are the victims of their own agendas.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm

What nonsense on this thread. None of the rich or poor shoppers in Europe complains so foolishly about using their own grocery bags or paying a few cents for market bags. It's been "Standard Operating Procedure" for years and the world hasn't ended.

But in Palo Alto, where everyone is so special, this issue becomes the basis for yet another personal freedom whine.

The world has lots of problems...here's one where you can actually do a little bit to help.
Maybe PaloAltoOnline will identify other local issues where a little unselfish action might be in order.....but I won't hold my breath.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm

> None of the rich or poor shoppers in Europe complains so foolishly about using their own grocery bags or paying a few cents for market bags. It's been "Standard Operating Procedure" for years and the world hasn't ended.

Really? Europe appears to be shriveling on the vine. Think Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, etc,. Every middle class tax/fee, according to the greens, is acceptable. Then comes the tipping point, where it all falls off the cliff. Europe is already over the cliff.

The zero waste fanatics are pushing Palo Alto middle class women over the cliff. There is no need for this, if appropriate technology is employed.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Must have been the recycled grocery bags that tanked those economies in Greece, Portugal, & Spain.

More Palo Alto nonsense economics. BTW: Middle Class PA Women -- watch out for those cliffs, they are all around you.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

They have banned plastic bags in Ireland and now only flimsy paper bags are supplied - when it rains they disintegrate when the locals carry them to the bus stops. Locals do not always use cars to do their shopping and usually have to pay for parking if they do. But, they do not charge for the paper bags.

It is hard to talk about Europeans do this or that as different countries have different rules, but generally speaking parking is very expensive as well as gas. Public transportation is more frequent, reliable and comprehensive also. Some stores will give bags for free and some will charge. There are great options for shopping bags on wheels and good quality cheap grocery bags, as well as string bags for vegetables. Generalizing what happens in Europe on this subject is not helpful.


Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Garrett, of COURSE they will still be struggling even with cloth bags. But these cloth bags are bulky and heavy. Period.

I don't know why you talked about taking bags to the car. I am talking about people who have no car to take the bags to.

On another subject, for those of you really adamant about greenery, let's go back to you bring your OWN CONTAINER, and let employees dish out or pour out the item for you. That way we'd have more people employed, and we would be going back to the good old days.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm

>Must have been the recycled grocery bags that tanked those economies in Greece, Portugal, & Spain.

No single element destroys an economy, but multiple single elements can do just that.

There is no rational reason for Palo Alto to buy into this
zero waste fanaticism. It is all about a local political green irrational agenda. Nothing more.

It is time to become rational, in Palo Alto.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Craig Laughton said "It is all about a local political green irrational agenda", but Palo Alto is not the only place putting restrictions on plastic bags. Many cities, and also counties, have done so already.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Actually I have no "local political green irrational agenda." I simply believe that this particular form of recycling is just a good, economic, EASY and conservative (in the real sense of the word) approach to eliminating waste and dependence on big oil.

It's not onerous to live with: You could still get your plastic bag (just as shoppers can in Europe). You just pay a very small price --25 CENTS -- to get one. it is not a difficult adjustment.

25 CENTS in Palo Alto, one of the richest towns in America can't stomach a quarter?

BTW I'm certainly not a "zero waste fanatic" and am a lot more realistic than that. I resent the pigeon-holing. Name calling is kind of a cheap shot. It's kind of amazing how excited people in PA get over such small issues.

AND NOTE: These shopping bags were used in Europe WAY before they were legislated. In fact their use began locally in numerous areas, in many many countries.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Updated again for December 10, 2012. When will this stupidity ever end?

>>"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 JoAnn, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I get some groceries delivered by Safeway. They chose a Sunnyvale store for me. I don't have a say in this, even though the Menlo Park store is about half the distance (it does let them add a "fuel surcharge" to my bill, though). Sunnyvale has banned plastic bags, so now Safeway brings my things in paper bags and charges me $.10 for each one, which they say is part of the new law.

Not only don't I want the damned paper bags, which are piling up in my kitchen, it's galling to be charged for something you don't want. Reusable bags are not an option here, since I don't ever go to the store. But I suppose there are no exceptions. When my stash of plastic bags runs out, I'll just have to buy some for wet garbage and carrying and storing small items.

If anyone knows of some organization that can use a bunch of chintzy paper bags with handles, please post. I'll be glad to donate.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm

JoAnn: Why not just put all those paper bags in your recycling bin? Or, use them as garbage bags?

Outside Observer: Putting the loose items directly into your car from the shopping cart seems fine, but why not take an empty cloth shopping bag into the store before you shop. Wouldn't that be easier?

BTW...in Europe, people just carry their folded empty bags into the store by putting them in their purse/on their arm until checkout then put their own groceries into their bags. Checkers do not bag groceries. OMG ANOTHER SOCIALIST IDEA!!!

I love reading PA Online letters -- So entertaining. People get bent out of shape over such small slights to their "VERY SPECIAL PERSON" status. They see themselves as environmentalists because of their Priuses, but go ballistic about giving up plastic bags or paying 25 cents for a bag...pleading poverty. Oh...the humanity...the tragedy of it all.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Paper bags are great for getting logs started in the fireplace.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm

@musical,

>>"Paper bags are great for getting logs started in the fireplace."

Yes, they are, and in so doing you are keeping them out of the hands of litterers and preventing them from going into a landfill.

10 "Green" brownie points to you on that good idea ;)


Posted by member, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2012 at 11:01 pm

To the resident of another community: You like reading PA online letters? Really, you do? So why the unkind comments referring to us as "people who get bent out of shape over slights to their "VERY SPECIAL PERSON" status. We are just trying to figure this all out. So we have questions....some of us are not be crazy about the disposable bag ordinance and the 25 cent a bag fee. So what? Who are you to say that we shouldn't speak to proposed changes within our community? We are kind, giving and helpful, loving neighbors in Palo Alto who are grateful to live here and also grateful to speak, which is a good thing.


Posted by Restaurant Customer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:12 am

@JoAnn: The Friends of the Palo Alto Library would LOVE your paper bags with handles to supply to customers at their monthly book sales. They are always in need of these bags!!
www.fopal.org

@All the bag-ban defenders: Still, no one has addressed my query from a few days ago as to how restaurants are supposed to pack take-home food in a drip-proof and sanitary manner. Yes, I know we did without plastic bags decades ago, but people ate out a lot less, too.


Posted by Rresident, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm

So, the City wants to inconvenience both retailers and shoppers, I'll just go shop at Safeway in Mountain View where I meet so many of my south Palo Alto neighbors.

Also, I will go to Costco and buy their plastic bags to line my garbage/recycle bins in my house. They end up in the trash just like the plastic bags from Palo Alto's retail stores. I'll just rearrange my life to get around this silly ban.


Posted by businessdecision, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Mountain View's banning plastic bags from next Earth Day.

Menlo Park is discussing the subject somewhere in the Arrillaga building they have, Wed. at 6:30.

This drive to ban plastic bags-- let's stop it. We all understand that we must not throw them out and that we can recycle them at, to name one place, Safeway. So many cities have worked on these bans that by now everyone knows, if they didn't before, that they can't litter. We get it.

We know how about these bags, but we don't know about cloth bags, where they come from, what they might contain, how much water was used producing them in the first place, how clean or otherwise people keep them, how much water people use when they wash them, how slowed down things will be as people fumble with cloth bags, how much money will go on purchases of other plastic bags (explain THAT to your kids), how many of the other plastic bags still available in stores will be taken, and on and on...

Enough people hate this.


Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

correcting-

Mountain View's banning plastic bags from next Earth Day.

Menlo Park is discussing the subject somewhere in the Arrillaga building they have, Wed. at 6:30.

This drive to ban plastic bags-- let's stop it. We all understand that we must not throw them out and that we can recycle them at, to name one place, Safeway. So many cities have worked on these bans that by now everyone knows, if they didn't before, that they can't litter. We get it.

We know about these bags, but we don't know about cloth bags, where they come from, what they might contain, how much water was used producing them in the first place, how clean or otherwise people keep them, how much water people use when they wash them, how slowed down things will be as people fumble at the cash register with cloth bags, how much money will go on purchases of other plastic bags (explain THAT to your kids), how many of the other plastic bags still available in stores will be taken, and on and on...

Enough people hate this.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Once upon time I didn't have a car, struggled with public transit, bike and walking with plastic bags. Was pulled over by the Police for having plastic bags over my handle bars, bags were burst open on the bus and while walking. I don't think anything in life is easy, struggling with shopping, it could be far worse.

We could allow the first 2 bags for free, I don't like being charged 25 cents any better. Bringing your own container, I have done that before, not easy, takes to much time.

Zero waste is not going to happen, but we can reduce our waste imprint, use stuff that won't have a life span of us. Some products we just need and others I think we can live without.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2012 at 7:57 am

Watch "Bag It!", a documentary about the impact of plastic bags on the environment, and learn more about Menlo Park's proposed ban on single-use plastic bags at an informational meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on Oct. 23 to certify the environmental impact report (EIR) and adopt an ordinance eliminating the use of plastic bags by retailers, except for restaurants and produce sellers. The ordinance would add a 10 cent fee for paper bags through the end of 2014, then hike the fee to 25 cents per paper bag.

Menlo Park, along with 24 other cities along the Peninsula, may opt to go along with the ban. The City Council plans to vote on the ordinance in January.

The informational meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center at 701 Laurel St.


Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

Glad the ban is just on single-use.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2012 at 8:31 am

What is single use? Any plastic bags we acquire get used multiple times. We even wash our sandwich baggies and use them several times (much cheaper than expensive sandwich containers which get lost, lids get mislaid, and take up too much kitchen space when not in use).

Perhaps single use mean the double wrappers on bread. Perhaps the double bread wrapping could be banned instead.


Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2012 at 9:16 am

"Single use" is a rhetorical trick to make these bags less acceptable.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Palo Alto quietly gets new evening food truck market
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,667 views

See Me. Hear Me. Donít Fix Me.
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,820 views

Foothills Park: a world away
By Sally Torbey | 11 comments | 1,623 views

Universal Language
By Cheryl Bac | 3 comments | 1,411 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 10 comments | 662 views