Town Square

Plastic bag era comes to an end in Palo Alto

Original post made on Jul 1, 2013

For Palo Alto shoppers, the question "Paper or plastic?" officially becomes an anachronism Monday, as the city's new ban on plastic bags takes effect at all retail locations and paper bags become a costlier commodity.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, July 1, 2013, 9:29 AM


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Posted by Bag Man
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 9:51 am

What took ya so long? From someone who has already had to deal a no plastic bag city for some time now, you'll see its a not a big deal at all. Glad to have PA join the rest of the cities.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 1, 2013 at 9:57 am

If people didn't keep throwing their plastic bags into the street and storm gutters, these laws wouldn't be necessary. They clog up everything and endanger wildlife and don't readily biodegrade.

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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

The end-the-bag campaign is related to the storm drain credit that cities get if they enact such bans. Probably the whole story.

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Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

It's about time!

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Posted by Abe Mitchell
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:44 am

I cannot agree with the policy of "No plastic bags". This should be a decision taken by the traders association whom could charge the public an nominal fee for each bag, then in turn the traders could donate the monies taken for the bags to a local charity of their choice. There is no way a "Parish Council" should be allowed to take such decisions!

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Posted by a catastrophe
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 1, 2013 at 11:47 am

Poorly written article with a laughably wrong title.
The article itself states that restaurants have until Nov 1 to phase out plastic bags, so the era is not coming to an end today!!! Then they say that restaurants will be allowed to place soups in plastic bags after Nov 1. I also assume that we will still be using plastic bags in grocery stores for fruits and vegetables. So in conclusion the plastic bag era is not coming to a real end in Palo Alto.
oooh, the found 350 bags in two creek clean ups this year--the world is clearly coming to an end now. Out how many bags is that??? Very typical misrepresentation of the "green" crowd that is parroted by the weekly

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Followed a garbage truck on the highway not so long ago, it was gradually losing its load of recycled materials, bags, etc. and they were blowing all over the highway. That is probably where the bags in the creeks and Bay come from.

Everyone I know seems to be buying plastic bags from Ziplock, Glad, Hefty, etc. for all the uses the free bags were used (never call them single use as they were always used multiple times). Time to think about buying some Stock.

And by the way, bread is still double wrapped. Why???????

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Posted by Toad22222
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Now more people will litter with no little portable free plastic trash bags. :( I liked those. I always spit my flep in them. Now they go in bushes. I think it was a bad ruling.

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Posted by Toad22222
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I always use plastic bags for trash bags, sports bag, bags, and crafts. It's a pity that they will be banned.

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Posted by Another resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm

We currently use our paper grocery bags for our trash and recycling - now we will probably move to plastic because they are less than 10 cents a bag - resulting in an increased use of plastic bags. I'm pretty sure we're not the only ones.

What was intended to lower the use of plastic bags will likely increase it instead.

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Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Finding a whole 350 plastic bags in two creek cleanups is NOT justification for inconveniencing 50,000 or more human beings! Period.

All this ordnance does is provide employment for yet another city staffer charged with dealing with yet another law and making the entire populace look elsewhere for their wastebasket liners, doggie doo sacks, etc. etc.

Since it will be harder to lay hands quickly on a bag every time taking dog for a walk, I predict this ordnance's main result will be a couple hundred fewer bags to be cleaned from the creek and several thousand more dog turds to navigate around on our city sidewalks.

Another great job, City Council.

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Posted by whythepapercharge
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Three things -
1. Great comment re dog turds!
2. Does this include a ban on the bag in which my newspaper is delivered? (frequently used to clean up item #1) Even when it is raining?
3. Has there been any printed official justification for the ordinance *compelling* stores to charge 10 cents per paper bag? Can anyone say how making them do that is legal? And where does the 10 cents go?

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Posted by Leo
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I bought 2000 plastic bags from Amazon at about two cents per bag. It's much cheaper than the ten cents charged by store. Also I often shop at Milpitas because they don't charge for bags.

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Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm

All in all, I support the ban, despite the inconvenience. But Leo in Midtown, you can't be serious about spending $$$ in gas to shop in Milpitas to save 10 cents for a few bags! Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater! : ))

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Resident-- you are correct, these are not single use bags. But is part of the " green" propaganda machine to label them as such-- obviously ifmtheynused multiple times, they are not bad and that would undercut their brainwashing attempts.

Catastrophe-- you are correct, the weekly does blindly parrot those misrepresentations by the green crowd.

Wnythepaper charge-- the money goes to the store, so they are happy. They can charge you for whatbthey used to give away for free.

Bottom line, this is a ridiculous law. Fortunately, I have a few years supply of plastic bags squirreled away.

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Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

(former P.A. resident for 38 years) I have just one question and issue, re plastic bags: What do I use when I scoop the cat boxes for pee lumps and poo? I was told not to flush cat poo plus litter probably isn't good on the plumbing, some (like clay-based ones) would be disastrous if flushed. Am I to go to a pet store and buy new bags for this purpose? That seems even worse than using bags from stores, as I currently do. What about biodegradable plastic bags? Why aren't those being phased in?

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Posted by Crazy Ordiance
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm

This ordinance just means that I will have to purchase large quantities of plastic bags for my animal poop. I'll also need to purchase plastic bags to line my garbage cans. Which store or web site sells the cheapest dog poop bags??

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Posted by blatt
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Why is everyone concerned about bags--whether paper or plastic, when muggers, thieves and other miserable people are lurking. The effort to ban bags should be put toward making our communities safer!

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Posted by Boohoo my doggie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Let's run our society's rules to accommodate dog s***. And the self righteous self centered owners who foul the streets and playgrounds.
I for one am weary of dogs, dog owners and their "needs". If you can't take proper care of an animal in a city, don't have one. (sounds of boo-hoo from the owners, not the dogs). Don't expect the normal people to help you.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:22 pm

"Let's run our society's rules to accommodate dog s***"

Actually, that is exactly what we are doing by basing this law on the acts of litterers. Instead of going after the litterers everyone else is inconvenienced by the bag bans.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Since we have had a plastic bag ban for 3 years at grocery stores and 350 plastic bags were found in our creeks, it proves that the ban is not working. The bags must have been acquired elsewhere, from breads and produce, or ziplock or baggies. They can't be from our grocery stores because the ban has already occurred. QED.

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Posted by Phil_H
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Yet another really stupid idea by the incompetents that get elected to the "City Council". I'm not going to carry reusable bags with me when I go shopping that require washing after each use to kill bacteria. And, I'm not going to accept paper bags at 10 cents each unless they can stand up to a rainstorm while I'm trying to get them inside.

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. But that's (sadly) Palo Alto. It's no wonder that we're the laughing stock of the entire country.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Posted again, for the 4th time....

>>>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."

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 8:58 pm

So the City government thinks they are smart enough to be my nanny. I disagree.
I don't have a problem with the plastic ban, but because they mandate a charge for paper bags, I will switch to plastic.

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Posted by Boohoo my doggie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Now I'm curious. What kinds of groceries do you buy, Phil, that make it necessary to wash the bag every time? I have several cloth bags that I never wash, in the car, they don't look dirty, and it's no problem taking one or two in with me. A couple of scuff marks on the outside but nothing unsightly. And the inside is totally clean.
Today I bought over $50 worth and the bagger skilfully put them in the sturdy bag. One deli item was odd shaped so I carried it separately.
Everything including deli items are in closed containers-- dairy products, meat is wrapped by the butcher, or shrink wrapped, veggies are in plastic bags..etc. Are you new at food shopping?
I really don't understand the problem, unless you are germ phobic, which is something else.

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Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 2, 2013 at 5:26 am

I get most of my groceries delivered by Safeway. They come from a store in Sunnyvale, which banned plastic bags earlier this year. I have no opportunity to "take my reusable bags to the store." I am stuck paying for the damned paper bags, which often arrive wet or torn and go straight into the recycling bin. Plus I'm deprived of the convenient plastic bags with handles which I used for kitchen and bathroom trash. So I'm buying plastic bags too.

This is reminiscent of the "deposit" con on plastic bottles. It's actually a tax, since there are so few places to redeem them. I think there is only one in Palo Alto. Doesn't anyone think these things through, or do they do it on purpose?

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Outside Observer/another community, you win the prize for funniest post - ha ha that's great: "shopping bag profiteers score zero.." And your stories are interesting and relevant.

This Palo Alto bag ban looks to be a case of good intentions taken too far. I remember watching some PA City Council discussion on TV and couldn't believe all the time devoted to this - a real snore.

All in all, reducing the number of plastic or paper bags used in this world is a good idea. I would prefer CHOICE, though, and educating people or asking them if they want a bag, rather than instituting excessive localized, complicated laws on the subject.

For the first time ever, I am going to have to purchase garbage bags for home use when I used to recycle store-given bags. I do carry reusable bags to the grocery store, but on the rare occasion when I stop in without them or do impulse shopping, I dislike the idea that I am some kind of "bad person" for not having a bag with me! - That seems to be the implication.

The overall excessive local lawmaking and nannyism is something I object to, along with the commonsense things people have noted in posts above.

One of the most clear points is that a lot of plastic bags near our highways likely drifted off someone's vehicle who is not from Palo Alto, so to enact a law here on the basis of finding plastic bags around here may not be accurate in the reasoning AND may not solve the highway problem.

I'm not sold that providing plastic or paper bags for buyers at grocery stores and restaurant take-outs is all that bad; what about people with a heavy load, the elderly, those having to walk in the rain while carrying their purchases and so on.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2013 at 6:53 am

If the plastic bag is thicker, stores can still provide them, but they need to charge 10 cents for each one. Here's the article:

Web Link

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Posted by Not a laywer, but ...
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm

The City of Palo Alto has NO authority to force merchants to charge 10 cents for paper bags, and neither does any other city in Santa Clara county which has adopted a similar illegal ordinance.

I'm sure lawsuits will soon arise as merchants become angry at the City illegally dictating the price the merchants must charge for bags since the City will next attempt to dictate merchants' salaries and other aspects of their businesses which is also illegal for the City to do so.

One commenter earlier in this Comment thread mentioned plastic bags from Amazon. Yes, those work well and are recyclable -- plastic type 2 which is High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE). Plus, California residents are not charged sales tax for purchasing those bags. Visit and search for "T-shirt plastic bags" which are so-called because they resemble the "wifebeater" T-shirts worn by criminal perpetrators as seen on many cop and police movies and TV shows due to the two handles -- e.g., a sleeveless pullover T-shirt.

What I just did today since I neglected to bring my T-shirt plastic bags to the supermarket was put everything back into the shopping cart and I tied the shopping cart to my car's bumper and drove home with the cart trailing my car -- luckily only 1/4 mile from the supermarket to my home over good roads though I was concerned at first by the 2 "bumps" crossing Foothill Expressway. Nice! I now have a nice wire frame basket and the shopping cart's wheels will be a good replacement for the wheels on my kid's and his neighborhood's friends' tricycles and skateboards.

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Posted by Old lady
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I just shopped at Stanford Shopping Center yesterday and noticed they started charging 15 cents for a shopping bag regardless of the amount you spent. I purchased an expensive clothing and was asked if I wanted a bag for 15 cents. I wonder if this new practice is related to this ordinance.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2013 at 5:28 am

Seen people refusing to buy bags for clothing and carrying clothes on hangers out of the stores! Stores don't charge for hangers and now the security will have a harder time spotting shoplifters if they can just walk out of the stores with a hanger!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2013 at 8:29 am

My family just got back from vacation and we brought back every plastic bag we acquired on our travels. I reckon that with careful usage we have enough to last until our next vacation.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland

on Jun 5, 2017 at 1:23 pm

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