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Tuesday: Plastic bag ban meeting at City Hall

Original post made on Jul 31, 2012

The city will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. this evening to gather comments on a proposal to ban plastic bags in Mountain View's retail stores.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 1:19 PM

Comments (48)

Posted by randy albin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm

how ridiculous because there are biodegradable plastic bags. shoppers are expected to carry around tote bags to use when they go shopping. what a teeny-weeny topic to just make life more difficult and expensive when people go shopping

Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm

So all impacts studied turned out to be "less than significant", just as Inks had predicted. We could have saved $10k by listening to common sense (or Inks or Means).

Given that there's no clear impact, why is this even being discussed further?

Time to vote out this entire council except Inks and Means and try to finally get some common sense in Mountain View!

Posted by maya
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I vote YES on the ban - big time! It is a piece of cake to keep extra bags in car trunks or small fold-able bags in purses. Sunnyvale is already doing this and it was wonderful to see it in action. Go, go City Council.

Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Please keep us posted on City Council's plan to require residents to wear safety goggles when clipping fingernails.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Has anyone shopped where the ban is in effect? Ridiculous! I wonder how much theft is occurring. Charging for bags just adds to the cost of the merchandise and inconveniences the consumer. I myself get irritated when asked. The "poop" bags are biodegradable. I agree whhy not for us when shopping.

Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Vote NO on any and all council folks that support this stupid ban on bags.
An effective ploy is to ask for "help out" to the car for the fifteen or twenty (or two) items purchased. Let them carry them out piece by piece.
How friggen idiotic our "leaders" are. All so damn P.C. and Chicken Little followers they are.
May I suggest a helmet law for car drivers, the (above) safety goggles for nail clipping, a Social Worker to walk every child to school and a fee for things like breathing, walking, and speaking (the latter fee would cut down the noise level in the land)
Jeeze Council folk,,, get a life.

bye george

Posted by Bob
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I sailed across the Pacific in a small sailboat in '98 and again in '08. The amount of floating plastic (bottles, bags, etc) was amazing and disgusting. The Pacific, in places, looked like a garbage dump. Anything that can be done to minimize the situation is worth the extra hassle.

Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I am definitely against the ban. It is one of the reasons that I am running for City Council this year. There are lots of problems with this proposed law. I have spoken out about this at prior Council Meetings. If you want to hear what I had to say, you can check out the videos on my campaign website:

Web Link

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Stupid. That's the word for this law.

How is this even enforcable? Are they going to send undercover cops to every store in the city?

Posted by BagCarrier
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I vote that we dump our plastic bags in the yards of those opposed to the ban.

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Dumping your bags in my yard would be illegal.

Another law that is unenforceable. But don't let that stop you.. write more useless laws.

That's the ticket.

Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I'm all for banning plastic bags...I thought they were a bad idea when they were first introduced...but leave the paper bags alone! Next time I go to Trader Joes in Sunnyvale and they ask me if I want to buy a few bags, I'm gonna tell them no, just load it all back into my shopping cart. I can wheel it out to my car and put it all in the big cardboard box I carry in the back.

Posted by Nuh-uh
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Otto Madux, its completely enforceable. First off, the big chains will all fall into line right away. They've done it in other cities so they know what to do. Since bags are bought in gross quantities, they simply won't order the plastic ones. Others won't risk it and will comply because obeying the law is important to them. Finally you'll have others
who won't comply. The inevitable goodie good will file a complaint and probably after a 1st time warning, a presumably large fine will be levied. When its time to order another gross of bags, they likely won't. After a few fines come down, news spreads that its costing some people big bucks and people become far less apt to order 10K plastic bags come next order cycle. Over time the result is achieved; mostly voluntarily, but also through enforcement. Not saying I agree with the ban, but I disagree that its not enforceable.

Posted by Still Curious
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 31, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I still haven't had anyone explain to me how the plastic bag I'm issued at Safeway in Mountain View ends up in the ocean if I: a) discard it in the garbage collected by the City's garbage vendor, or b) bring it back to Safeway.

If that bag is getting into the ocean, then the problem is with the garbage company or Safeway, and they should probably pay a huge fine.

If the problem lies with some group of litter-bugs that dumps their bags into the sewer, then find a way to come down on them. Don't make the well-behaved minority pay the price (in a way the study concurs would have little impact).

Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 31, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Still Curious: the answer is that your bags are NOT ending up in the ocean, based on the study our own council commissioned. Any garbage that Bob ran across in the ocean on his voyages is not coming from a Mountain View Safeway.

So banning bags in Mountain View won't help, other than making a few folks sleep better at night who don't understand science but genuinely want to "be green".

If you care about the environment, it's much better to focus your efforts elsewhere (now proven by an expensive study!).

Posted by Math genius
a resident of Gemello
on Jul 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm

"The City Council voted 5-1 in April to study the ban, with members John Inks and Tom Means opposed."

How was it 5-1 when two people were opposed?

Posted by Righty
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2012 at 6:02 pm

"How was it 5-1 when two people were opposed?"

I watch FoxNews and they told me that if 5 people vote yes and 2 people vote no, then the vote is 5-1. So, it's true.

Posted by Aaron
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2012 at 6:12 pm

To those of you who oppose the ban based on the report apparently did not read it. A quick scan of the executive summary shows benefits in the following areas:

air quality
biological resources
hydrology/water quality

The problem with plastic bags is that they are so easily lost. How many of us have opened our back car windows and have had an empty bag fly out? Did you go back and pick it up? Yeah, me neither...

Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm


1) The study suggests that a vast majority of the impacts are none. The few you mention are based on producing the bags, which is negligible -- and everyone will just end up buying plastic bags for trash if they can't reuse grocery bags, so the impact is the same.

2) I've never let a bag become litter, and few if any others do. Just because you're a litterbug doesn't mean you should try to ban the rest of us from having access to bags, which we responsibly manage.

Posted by wendy
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Plastic bags are wasteful. Period, end of story. They cause all sorts of issues in the recycling process, they end up in our water ways, even when disposed of in a garbage can because the wind picks them up and blows them. You can't enforce the idea that people should be responsible for disposal as you wouldn't know who the owners are of the ones that don't get disposed of.

People are just adverse to change. In a few years this will be non-issue.

Posted by Wendy
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Nick, Banning them in Mountain View will make a difference, because as one city falls so does the next. You can't get bags in the City of San Jose or anymore. That *will* cut down on waste and you will see more and more cities doing this just as Europe has done for decades.

Posted by Aaron
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:18 pm


I really don't think you are reading the draft study. You say that the impacts I mention are only based on bag production?

Two of the three points I raise are "Biological Resources" and "Hydrology/water quality" have nothing to do with bag production. It has to do with the improperly discarded plastic bags ending up destroying wildlife/wetlands and being flushed down storm drains and causing blockages. The fact that you said that the points I raised are only on bag production proves you have not even read the executive summary.

Bags becoming litter? "few if any others do". Really? The environment is heavily cluttered with plastic bags. The fact that you don't know this means you have a lot to learn about plastic bags.

Finally, just because there are restrictions coming on retailers giving out plastic bags, doesn't mean you can't buy them yourself.

I recently went to Walmart and had maybe 15 items in my cart. I didn't watch them bag things up, but when I walked away with my cart I had 8 plastic bags! Mostly they were filled with air. Darn. I'm sure going to miss that! :)

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Oh you poor people who think this is enforceable.

There are SO MANY little shops in San Jose still selling things in plastic bags. It is just in shops you all don't (and wont ever) visit.

I happen to be a fan of freedom. Something a lot of you, clearly, are afraid of.

The State doesn't need to tell me how much cough medicine I can buy, how much trans-fats I can have in my food, and how big my cup can be at McDonald's.

But even if you think banning plastic is a good move, why force people to pay for paper bags? Seriously.. this is just another revenue stream for the State. Shake a few more quarters out of my pocket every time I go shopping.

Posted by Dominick
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 31, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I use a plastic bag to line my garbage container. I get them with my purchases. If they are banned in Mountain View then I can buy them and still use them to line my garbage container.
So this solution does not stop me from using plastic bags it stops me from getting plastic bags for free.
The problem of disposal of plastic bags still exists.

Posted by Mr. Big
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 1, 2012 at 3:02 am

If the current bags are a problem, then just redesign them and NO MORE TAXES! The paper bags should remain FREE.

Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 1, 2012 at 6:13 am

Those plastic bags are among the very few things still manufactured in America, like incandescent light bulbs.

Posted by Jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 1, 2012 at 8:18 am

I have to wonder if everyone brings their own bag, will those folks who shoplift have an easier time getting away with petty theft?hWi5

Posted by maya
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2012 at 8:51 am

If one composts kitchen scraps, let's say via a worm bin, then there is not much in garbage for we recycle. Plastic/paper bags from packaged foods like cereals and various munchies make great garbage bags even though they are small. We've done it for years and never needed grocery or any other bags. We were actually surprised how well this system works!

Posted by Nuh-uh
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 1, 2012 at 9:18 am

Otto, are speed law enforceable? By your statement that many in SJ have bags, it would seem that since so many speed every day that they are unenforceable. So should we get rid of them if not enforceable?
How about murder...lots of them every year. Unenforceable! Another law we should never have least by the logic of some.

Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

Just do a couple of beach or creek cleanups with the Surfrider Foundation or on California Coastal Cleanup day (September 15th this year).

Then you will have a better understanding of why the plastic bag ban is a step forward for this planet.

Also, people who don't dispose of cigarette butts properly should be fined.

Posted by MyFiveCents
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 1, 2012 at 11:04 am

Why treat them like plastic bottles and soda cans where you put down a deposit but get it back when you return them to a recycling center?

Posted by Punish Litterbug Smokers
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 1, 2012 at 11:25 am

OK, melding the two posts above, I think we have an idea on how to combat the disgusting litterbug smokers: A 5 cent deposit on every cigarette butt in the pack. When you bring your 20 butts back with your store receipt, you get your deposit back.
Lets see how often and for how long people want to throw nickles out of their car windows.

Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Reusable bags also pose a serious health risk:
Web Link

And all the washing necessary wastes water, too. So you just trade one environmental concern for another, albeit one with more health risks.

What about all the pollutants caused by people driving from San Francisco to Silicon Valley for work every day? Should that be banned? How about plane travel? All you "green" types love traveling the globe; do you have any idea how much fuel you're burning? How about when you traded in your 2008 Honda for a brand new Prius to be "green"; did your old car magically biodegrade into the ground and sprout sunflowers?

Unless you live on a commune in the middle of nowhere and don't do anything interesting, it's hypocritical to take away the rights of others, especially things that have "less than significant impacts" on the environment.

Posted by Cal Verde
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm

"Reusable bags also pose a serious health risk:"
"And all the washing necessary wastes water, too."
Look at you being green and voicing your green concerns. Way to go!!!

Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm

My experiences with shopping in Sunnyvale, that has implemented this ban, have been informative. Its a little jarring at first, not getting a plastic bag, but after a while, you really don't miss it.

What you begin to realize is the very temporary useful life span of a plastic bag (getting you stuff from the store to home), are far less than the long term impacts to the environment. I use plastic bags as trash liners as well, but the amount of bags I accumulate far exceed what I use in this regard, so this law won't affect this.

The law will be no different than the seat belt law: people will whine and moan about the inconvenience for a while, before realizing the added benefits to changing current behavior.

Posted by Sam
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm

So i go shopping at Valley Fair mall in San Jose and they give me a brown paper bag to put my items in. Then i go further down to Cupertino where there is no plastic bag ban and they give me the plastic bags.
Maybe Cities should stop spending money and time on these meetings and just stick to brown paper bags

Posted by Edward
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

If you haven't seen the mind-boggling behemoth floating plastic bag dump the size of a whole country oozing by in our ocean then I suggest you check it out before worrying about being inconvenienced by having to bring you own bag to go shopping. How embarassing and shameful that you live here in California - right next to the ocean and are still ignorant of it's importance.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Is the next step banning all plastic bags? For example, Hefty food storage zip lock bags, or large leaf bags. This will hurt those that manufacture these items as well as the stores that sell them. People that recycle get the message. Maybe the effort should go towards more support for the responsible use of plastic bags. Aren't the plastic bags distributed by nonprofits, charity thrift stores, restaurants and bags used for produce, meat and prescriptions just as harmful to the environment as those we get from Safeway to carry our groceries out the door or Macy's to carry our purchases home? Are those people more responsible and do not throw their bags into the ocean? Something here does not make any sense.

Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Disposable lighters, bleach and detergent bottles, plastic bags of every shape, size, and description, those HIDEOUS hard plastic clamshell packages that result in so many ER visits each year, children's toys, STYROFOAM in all forms, gratuitous plastic of all kinds should be banned to make this work. Otherwise, it is purely symbolic and a real nuisance.

Posted by susan johnson
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Plastic bags blow off landfills and into the bay, they find their way into our streams, they pollute our watrsheds and oceans. All for profit of chemical companies and bad habits of people that care about immediate convenience more than about our city and our environment

Posted by Still Curious
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

What gives some people the right to determine the set of inconveniences another group of people should be forced to endure? Why do some feel they can determine which inconvenience is "small" and which inconvenience is "large"?

To say things like, "Just ride a bike", or "It's easy to bring your personal shopping bag", or "Park your car and walk into the Chick Filet", assumes that others share your viewpoints, vitality, health, commute, time, etc, and the statements minimize and/or ignore the realities that others may face.

Those that face obstacles that define "inconvenience" differently don't need to hear the incessant guilt-trip about causing the destruction of the planet. For all we know, the elderly lady using the drive-thru on a rainy night may also be leaving $500K to "Save the Bay" or "Peninsula Open Space" when she passes away.

Posted by J Swift
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm

If all the horrible things about plastic bags is true, then this proposal does not go far enough. In Sunnyvale, plastic bags are still used for produce (even by the organic farmers at the farmers market), bread still comes wrapped in plastic bags, and meat still comes wrapped in plastic. Ban them all!
J. Swift

Posted by Of Course
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I agree with the above poster. If we cannot have a 100% reduction in a pollutant all at once, then we should not even try to reduce anything. We shouldn't even try. Take air pollution. Why restrict tail pipe emissions when we have jets and smoke stacks. Who cares if the result is more healthy air for us to breathe. Until we have 100% pollution free air, we should not try and create a law regulating tail pipe emissions.
Ouch, its hard to be this irrational.

Posted by EPRwillcureCA
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Simply put banning ends the discussion of innovativeness. It's easy to ban. Ban cigarettes do that the cigarettes don't end up in our water supply. Or stop flushing medication down the drain. Eco2Plastics or Pennisula Plastics can process LDPE locally. Grocers and consumers should be held accountable for their purchases and we need to finally embrace Producer's Responsibilty. Educate yourself before you express your opinion. Understand resource management vendors in your town.

If you ban plastic bags but not thermoformed packaging then you're clueless about waste generation. Some politicians are trying to look good on paper to idiots.

I beg you, please educate yourselves (and not with lobbyist propaganda). I've worked in recycling in California for a decade. There is a solution without growing your hands up in failure (ie banning). People need to take Responsibilty for what they buy, packaging and all.

Posted by Aaron
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 3, 2012 at 12:02 am

This restriction on plastic bags will not be a cureall for every environmental or recycling problem we have on this planet. It will be a significant, yet incremental improvement in the problem with improperly discarded plastic bags.

For those of you who are talking about relying on 'personal responsibility' instead of a law...well, that is what we have today.. And, it's not working. Sorry, but it's not. You had your chance...But don't worry, there are plenty of other problems that you can solve before we have to legislate it.

For example (perfectly hypothetical I'm sure), if your buddy tosses his cigarette butt on the ground, talk to him about the problem...because if you don't, then it will have to be legislated someday. If you choose to let it go, then don't complain later when a restriction is placed.

Posted by Jon Wiener
a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I am cross-posting this from the comments section of Web Link because I think it is relevant to some of the comments here. I tried to post it yesterday but must not be good at the Internet yet:

"I think there's some confusion about what the study meant by "less than significant impacts." As far as I understand the law, the study was only looking at negative environmental impacts of the ordinance. For example, an example of a "significant impact" would be dramatically increased use of paper bags. (Plastic bag manufacturers actually took cities to court to force them to do these studies for that reason). Big environmental benefits would not be considered "significant impacts" because they are not negative effects."

Posted by Aaron
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Jon--I'm not saying you are wrong about the law, but if you read the report, you can see they actually do detail out positive benefits.

The following is excerpted from Table ES-1 Summary of Significant Environmental Impacts, Mitigation Measures, and Residual Impacts of the County of San Mateo Single Use Bag Ban Ordinance Program EIR Executive Summary

Impact AQ-1 With a shift toward reusable bags, the Proposed Ordinance is expected to substantially reduce the number of single-use carryout bags, thereby reducing the total number of bags manufactured and the overall air pollutant emissions associated with bag manufacture, transportation and use. Therefore, air quality impacts related to alteration of processing activities would be Class IV, beneficial.

Impact BIO-1 Although the Proposed Ordinance would incrementally increase the number of recycled paper and reusable bags within the Study Area, the reduction in the amount of single-use plastic bags would be expected to reduce the overall amount of litter entering the coastal and bay habitat, thus reducing litter-related impacts to sensitive wildlife species and sensitive habitats. This is a Class IV, beneficial, effect.

Impact HWQ-1 The Proposed Ordinance would incrementally increase the number of recycled paper and reusable bags used in the Study Area, but the reduction in the overall number of single-use plastic bags used in the Study Area would reduce the amount of litter and waste entering storm drains. This would improve local surface water quality, a Class IV, beneficial, effect.

Posted by dc
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Unfortunately there are other effects to having people bring in empty bags with them.
The bag ban is contributing to thousands of dollars in losses for at least one Seattle grocery store,

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