Council supports bag fee idea


A proposal to discourage single use shopping bags gained the support of the City Council on Tuesday night, setting the stage for a county-wide debate over the issue.

After much discussion about its effectiveness and how it might hurt businesses, the council voted 5-2 in favor of supporting a 25 cent fee on single use shopping bags, both paper and plastic. Shoppers wishing to avoid the fee would carry in their own bags.

Council members Tom Means and John Inks were opposed to the idea. "I'm an exclusive canvas bag shopper myself," Inks said. But this "tax," he said, would place "an enormous burden on the carryout bag industry. I can't support the resolution proposed here."

Means, an economics professor at San Jose State University, appeared to talk himself out of the idea after originally saying he was "fine supporting the resolution."

"I'm not sure this thing will ever be right," Means said. "I don't know if a quarter is too low or too high and I don't know if anyone on this [county commission could figure it out either." He said one part of the ordinance, which exempts users of food stamps, was "patronizing" and "silly."

The proposal is being put forth by Santa Clara County officials -- until recently, council member Ronit Bryant vice chaired the county recycling and waste reduction commission that drafted the ordinance -- and so far has gained only partial support, with the cities of Los Altos and Milpitas rejecting it.

"I don't think any ordinance is ever perfect," Bryant said. "But I think we should move forward with this."

Mountain View resident Cornel Fowler said he helped write the bag ordinance in San Francisco, but "like a lot of things done in San Francisco it was done first, but not necessarily right."

"It opened it up for paper bags," he said, explaining that shoppers now avoid the plastic bags and go for paper, which doesn't come with a fee in San Francisco. "All single use bags are bad," he said.

City staffers said it was unclear exactly how the bag fee would apply in the case of the farmers market, but that the ordinance could be modified with the council's input.

The only public speaker opposing the fee was a man who called himself the "representative" for the "effected industries," Ryan Kinney. He said the fee was "imposing a tax on consumers during a recession" and that plastic bags are only half a percent of the waste stream and can be recycled.

Council member Jac Siegel disagreed, saying plastic bags were littered "everywhere."

After Kinney gave each member 71 single-sided pages of information, council member Mike Kasperzak said Kinney needed to "cut down on [paper waste" with his handouts.


Like this comment
Posted by Confused
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I am not sure I understand the arbitrary nature of a $0.25 fee?

I think that on one hand, if we really wanted to recover clean up costs we would have a study for the cost needed based on estimated reduction and income. On the other hand If we wanted to simply ban them because they are bad for the environment we should just openly say it and ban them.

As I see the environmental aspect of it, there are so many pieces of single use packaging film littered or going to landfill beyond shopping bags we are being the ostrich with its head in the sand thinking this will address anything other than a tax revenue. For example there other products being over looked that fall in to the same litter and landfill category that are greater in volume: bags that contain potting soil or mulch; the wrappers around a case of soda or bottled water; that plastic they wrap around boxes that are shipped in trucks; and so many other things that we see on the road that I doubt we will really make much of a difference in plastic waste with any version of a shopping bag law.

Maybe we have just green washed ourselves in to thinking we will make a difference because we really just want to feel good more than make a just difference.

Like this comment
Posted by Randall Flagg
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 28, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Mountain View can't even synchronize its traffic lights for maximum fuel efficiency. Even New York City can do that. This fee is just another load of bovine excrement raising money for overpaid bureaucratic personnel out of the pockets of people who actually work for a living and have to compete in the real world.

Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 28, 2009 at 10:02 pm

The City Council's job is to run the city. If at the end of the day, they have some extra time, they can go save the world. That's fine, but they have to get their job done first. Have they fixed the sidewalks on El Camino? Have all the street lights work? Have enough police to deal with the rising murder rate?

No, no, and no, but the City Council is protecting the environment by raising taxes. Isn't that lovely.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Blame plastic all you want .. either way went it ends up in the landfill instead of recycled it's a problem. Paper is a bigger problem than plastic in the landfill. Read an interesting article from the SF Chronicle .. Web Link

"A 2003 survey commissioned by the California Integrated Waste Management Board estimated that plastic grocery bags represent 0.4 percent of the waste stream. Paper bags tallied 1 percent."

Since plastic bags are used much, much more than paper and still only amount to less than 1/2 the wast stream (how much weight and volume they take up) it would seem that to encourage paper would be foolish.

Like this comment
Posted by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Feb 2, 2009 at 11:38 am

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

Just to clarify in response to the last post, the proposal aims to discourage both paper and plastic shopping bags.

Like this comment
Posted by V.
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2009 at 6:04 pm

They can go back to sipping lattes now.

Like this comment
Posted by Jon Wiener
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2009 at 3:32 pm

After Kinney gave each member 71 single-sided pages of information, council member Mike Kasperzak said Kinney needed to "cut down on [paper waste" with his handouts.

At which point Kasperzak turned to the audience and said, "Am I right, people?" He then gave himself a high-five.

Like this comment
Posted by dparksion
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 5, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Instead of whacking people two bits-a-bag why don't we recycle more of the recyclable materials at the curbside than we do. Have you seen the list of things our recycling service doesn't recycle, that can be recycled? Paper and plastic shopping bags are re-usable and recyclable. If you charge me a quarter for a bag, I will just have to buy more plastic garbage bags to line my trash cans. Don't tell us this is about the environment.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

A New Way to Think About High Speed Rail
By Steve Levy | 9 comments | 1,280 views

Sweet Potato Canapé and Food Party! Holiday Favorites
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 712 views

Couples: Slowing Down & Content and Process Conversation
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 709 views

Twenty Years in the Sixties: How an Alcoholic Hippie Became a Self-Giving Servant
By Aldis Petriceks | 0 comments | 420 views


The holidays are here!

From live music to a visit with Santa, here's a look at some local holiday activities to help you get into the spirit of the season.