City-wide plastic bag ban is back on the table | April 13, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - April 13, 2012

City-wide plastic bag ban is back on the table

by Daniel DeBolt

The City Council could approve a ban on disposable plastic shopping bags in October — earlier than anyone expected — thanks to an agreement with San Mateo County.

The ban could go into effect on July 1, 2013 under a "work plan" approved by the council Tuesday evening. San Mateo County has offered to include Mountain View and other Santa Clara County cities in its environmental impact report (EIR) on its proposed plastic bag ban. Mountain View's inclusion will save at least $40,000, according to city staff, and lower the cost of the ordinance to $10,000.

The EIR would allow Mountain View to ban access to disposable plastic bags at grocery stores and require a minimum charge of 10 cents per re-usable or paper bag for the first 18 months and a charge of at least 25 cents thereafter. Restaurants and charitable operations such as Goodwill are not included in the ban.

The council voted 5-1 at its April 10 meeting to allow city staff to work on the ordinance, with Vice Mayor John Inks opposed and council member Tom Means absent.

"As an exclusive canvas bag shopper, I think this is a lot of work and a lot of time for a tiny part of the waste stream," Inks said. He added that the money should go towards lowering the recycling bills of residents.

A handful of residents spoke against the ban, including Jim Neal, who began coming to council meetings to oppose the city's new ban on smoking near publicly accessible buildings.

"I feel like this is a tax on the poor and an attack on the poor," Neal said. "You are going to charge them for paper bags? To me that's unconscionable. Have you ever tried to carry a paper bag in the rain?"

Council member Ronit Bryant responded to Neal's concerns, and recalled the first time the council considered a ban along with Santa Clara County.

"7-Eleven sent us hundreds of emails about how people's quality of life would deteriorate if they didn't have a plastic bag," Bryant said. But after cities such as Palo Alto and San Jose began implementing their own plastic bag bans, "we got letters from grocer's associations encouraging us to move forward with a ban, but said all cities should have similar requirements."

"Poor people lived without plastic bags for millenia," Bryant added. "It can be done. We pay the costs of having to clean up our creeks and clean up our Bay. It's a cost we all cover."

The draft EIR for the plastic bag ban is expected to be available for public comment in June.

The council's vote on Tuesday also allowed city staff to begin work on regulations for polystyrene take-out food containers, commonly known as Styrofoam. An ordinance could take effect July 1, 2014 and is expected to cost $3,000. So far Palo Alto is the only city in the county to have such a ban, and on its website the city cites polystyrene's inability to biodegrade and the harm it does to marine wildlife as reasons for banning it.

Email Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Project GreenBag, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 13, 2012 at 9:28 am

[Post removed due to promoting a website]

Posted by Kitty Fandango, a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Reusable bags are not so expensive that the poor really need to have an uprising about it. You can get a good quality canvas bag for less than three dollars. Given some of the things that I see in the shopping baskets of some of the low income members of our neighborhood, I am sure they can forego a few gallons of coca cola and purchase a canvas bag, but this is off topic now.

Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm

As I also said at the City Council meeting, I constantly reuse my bags, so the bag ban itself is not the problem. I also have a problem with the City forcing the stores to charge people as a way to bypass making it a tax, which people would then have to vote on in order for it to be approved. How can the city dictate how much stores must charge for a product? Can they also decide that sugar is bad and force the stores to charge an extra dollar for every bag of sugar? Can they decide that stores must charge 20 dollars per pack for cigarettes? How about 30 dollars for firewood? Why not? If they can get away with this, what stops them from ordering stores to charge any amount that they want for products that they don't like?

The City should not be run as an oligarchy, where a few people dictate how the rest of us live based on their own personal preferences. We elected the council as our REPRESENTATIVES not our masters! They should comply with the letter and the spirit of the laws, which means that anything that the council wants to do that will raise prices for its citizens has to be put to a vote!

Anyone who wishes to give away their protections guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions is free to do so, but don't try to give away or take away mine. This is a back door tax plain and simple. It is a clear violation of proposition 26. Although the prop 26 argument has been rejected by an LA Court, I am fairly certain that the ruling will be overturned on appeal.

If people in Mountain View are willing to VOTE for the ban and the associated charges, then I am all for it because it will have been subject to the democratic process and people will have had the opportunity to be fully informed about all sides of the argument. From what I have seen in the interviews with local residents, it seems that they think it is only a ban and do not know about the stores being forced to charge for paper.

Posted by Caryn Coleman, a resident of Castro City
on May 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Caryn Coleman is a registered user.

I like the idea of a plastic bag ban.

Nice to see so much clever re-use of the existing bags already going on and I find it hard to understand the accusation of socialism (or maybe they mean totalitarianism?).

The idea of the community banding together to sew bags is hilarious. Next time you are on the street, count the next ten people that go by and imagine them getting together to sew cloth bags from scraps. It's sweet and funny. Come to think of it, when visiting a thrift store in Vermont I saw that had taken T-shirts and sewn a simple seam across the bottom to save the thrift store having to buy bags. Maybe Goodwill could organize unemployed or enthusiastic mountain view citizens to do that instead?

Well, thank you for the ban. I like it!

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