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Palo Alto plastic-bag ban could hit next spring

Original post made on Sep 19, 2008

After consulting with grocers, industry groups and residents over the summer, Palo Alto environmental officials intend to unveil in November a plan to ban plastic checkout bags at grocery stores.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 19, 2008, 9:32 AM

Comments (30)

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 19, 2008 at 10:05 am

Well, as if we needed another reason to grocery shop in Mountain View or Menlo Park, here it is - the bag ban/tax is back. Presumably this hurts the grocers even more than the customers, though at least they get to take the cost of bags that had been free and add it to their profit.

If people want to use re-usable bags, that's lovely. But why the city sees fit to enforce this choice on everyone - that's strange. If the citizens were supportive, wouldn't they simply switch en masse - in which case not need for the ban. I guess we are not as smart as the city council.

I shake my head that we employ staff to study and enforce this kind of nonsense, while our infrastructure crumbles and we attempt to raise taxes (through bonds) to pay for what we need.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2008 at 10:07 am

I believe Mountain View is reviewing the situation and considering a ban also. It will eventually become commonplace.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2008 at 10:27 am

What about the plastic bags that we put fruit in at the grocery stores, will that be banned also? Will we then have to pay for the paper bag that we put our fruit in for purchase?
Ridiculous proposal but typical of our "everything is fine in Palo Alto so we can focus on climate change" city council.


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2008 at 10:36 am

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot ... why would anyone shop in Palo Alto ... tiny, expensive grocery stores and now you'll have to pay extra to carry your groceries out the door. At least food is exempt from sales tax, so the final demise of grocery shopping in Palo Alto (what little there is) won't hurt the sales tax base as much. When the remaining grocery stores go out of business, we can replace them with more high density housing. Residents can get out of their cars and take the new high speed rail to do their grocery shopping in southern california.


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Posted by MV Shopper
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2008 at 10:48 am

Why can't we reuse plastic grocery bags we've already used, it's call recycling?!!! Will the grocery stores provide small paper sacks instead of plastic bags in the fruit and vegetable isles?

OK, so you forget your cloth bag; will we have to pay extra for paper bags or will the supermarkets absorb the cost of paper bags by increasing prices?





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Posted by Mr. BBQ
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2008 at 3:05 pm

There goes my brown paper bags I use as a garbage bag! I will switch to plastic liner bags! What can I use to pick up the droppings my dogs leave me in the backyard? Those plastic are perfect for that use. Guess I will use a shovel and throw it over my fence! Ziplock bags would make it difficult to pick the "S" up! I will just get my plastic elsewhere! What about the plastic bag that my newspaper is delivered in? This proposed ordinance will not cut down on my usage of plastic bags, it will just increase it!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2008 at 3:18 pm

You can use the bags your bread comes in - they are great for all sorts of things. I wish I could buy some bags made of recycled plastic for my trashcans, but they don't seem to make them. So, I don't know what they use the recycled bags for.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2008 at 3:20 pm

I think the city of Palo Alto should ban the sale of everything in any kind of plastic or paper bag--that includes bread, fruits, etc.
that will show the world we mean business when it comes to climate change


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I will purchase my bags wholesale and open a black market, I can get bags for $79/1000 or, for a little more, have them imprinted with obscene comments about the intellect of the council. I will, of course, deliver them in plain paper bag wrapping if desired. Anyone know where I can get a trench coat with merchandise hooks inside?


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Wait, what grocery stores in Palo Alto?


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Posted by MV Shopper
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Mr. BBQ, you can purchase biodegradable plastic dog poop bags to pick up your dogs droppings. The poop and the bag will disintegrate in a land fill. Be ecological and spend a little money at a pet store and buy the biodegradable bags.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2008 at 3:09 am

What will be next? The plastic wrap on newspapers? Since I could read the Mercury News on-line if I choose - and since I detest the five pounds of ads that come before the weekends , I'll just get rid of the soon to be soggt Merc - and given its politics, good riddance I'll also shop in Menlo Park at Safeway and TJ's. Who needs this Big Brother in-your-face City Council? The plastic bag problem is with highway trash in uncovered trucks that violate the cover-the-load law. Council - focus on Crime and Disaster preparedness? Stop spending horrendous amounts of money like these outrageous bonuses which you didn't know about. This city is a joke. Maybe it's time to replace this council. And next year the King of Green, Peter Drekmeier could be the mayor. Photo ops here he comes.


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Posted by John Q. Public
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

Here's the thing... this whole debate about what to do about the "plastic bag problem" is misguided. There just isn't really that much of a problem. Compared to other things in our lives, those grocery bags have such a tiny impact that it's laughable to even think about. How it became such a huge issue is beyond me.

Next time you are filling your non-recyclable polypropylene reusable bag that was made in China (where there is little in the way industrial or environmental standards) and shipped halfway across the globe to get to you, look at what you are putting inside it. Produce in plastic produce bags, cereal in a plastic bag in a box, cookies in a plastic bag, bread in a plastic bag, meat wrapped in plastic, crackers and chips in plastic, batteries in plastic, shampoo in a plastic bottle, etc.... And you are really worried about the impact of the bag you take things home in? REALLY?

Plastic (and especially the lowly plastic bag) isn't the evil force it's made out to be. It protects food from spoiling, it keeps your milk jug from breaking when dropped, it reduces shipping costs due to it's light weight, and if you look around the room you are in right now, it is filled with plastic products. Plastic has improved our lives.

The environmental solutions for dealing with our waste and pollution don't lie in banning one little thing that has a tiny impact. Solutions come from legislation promoting renewable energy sources, upgraded recycling and waste management programs, and doing things to actually reduce our carbon footprints. Banning or taxing bags will have no positive impact, and may even make things worse.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 20, 2008 at 10:55 am

JQP, well said. This is "feel good environmentalism" - do something visible that doesn't really cause that much inconvenience, but you can tell yourself, your friends, your neighbors, you did SOMETHING, and after all, all the little things add up, right? The fact that its environmental impact is trivial (no one's ever bothered to look into it, right?) - well, never mind. We are leaders!

Want government regulation that will impact the environment? Don't ban free bags - ban FREE PARKING at groceries. Make them charge $5 or $10 per car per visit. That will cut down trips to the store, certainly no more trips for just for a loaf of bread, and maybe get people on public transit, walking, biking, car pooling. What, that's too inconvenient you say? Gosh, we wouldn't want saving the environment to actually be inconvenient. Never mind.


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Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2008 at 4:37 pm

First, I have to question where this lies in importance with all of the other things that should have priority in our community.

Second, is this going to accomplish anything if passed except to win brownie points with the environmental movement for the folks behind the ban? We as a city are already ensuring that most stores don't locate in PA, so what kind of bags they use does not matter. And the litter is going to be the unchanged. People who throw bags out the window are not going to be doing most of their shopping here anyway, but they will still be littering.

I have never seen so much litter on roads except in third world countries. Texas did an extensive clean up litter campaign a number of years back with tremendous success, and their roadways are still far cleaner than ours are. We need to get serious about litter, and respect for others who have to look at what has been thrown out the window.


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Posted by Play by the rules
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2008 at 5:36 am

For those of you who say banning plastic bags is wrong because they don't cause an ecological problem are just downright wrong.

Out in the middle of the Pacific is a permanently swirling mass of discarded plastic items which will never degrade and go away. This is a huge man made ecological disaster which is killing thousands of birds and sea life. They get entangled in this plastic soup and then feed small plastic balls to their young and kill them.

At this point I don't think we have an option; the future will be reusable cloth bags even if they are made in China - get used to it!!!


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Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm

If we're serious about this, we should be banning cars in downtown Palo Alto. There's no reason that cars should be driving through the cluster-f that that is.


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Posted by John
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 21, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Banning Plastics it is not the solution. Littering and waste management are the two main issues. Plastics are needed in our life and we do not have to pay more for something that we are currently re-using and it is helping us in our daily life.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

My first year in Palo Alto I suggested it be downgraded to a municipal service district with strictly enumerated and limited powers. I have seen no reason since then to change my opinion. Palo Alto is not ready for self rule, as this plastic bag job clearly illustrates


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 21, 2008 at 8:45 pm

Plastics bags in themselves are not the problem. Plastic bags as far as I know are not banned in Texas, Kentucky, or Maine. All three states are very, very clean. Texas has a "Don't Mess with Texas" law, and it is strict. Trash hauling trucks are strictly monitored. Washington and Oregon don't have a problem either. The garbage right now on 101 came from trash hauling trucks. However, I will agree that Santa Clara County is a county of slobs. It is filthy. But it is up to Caltrans to clear away trees that fell down in storms last year and the year before, cut down dead bushes - and remove same. Part of 280 is now the Norm Mineta Highway. Maybe that part will get cleaned up but don't hold your breath. 280 is a garbage dump as is 85.


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Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2008 at 9:11 am

Kate-I agree with your point.

Let's try to curtail the act of littering before we ban useful objects in our lives that have potential to be used for littering.

For years I have driven south on 101 south of University, and daily seen commercial garbage trucks blowing litter from open tops onto the road and shoulder. It only takes a piece or two from each of many trucks a day to add up to a lot of litter.

I also have seen drivers and passengers throwing cups and wrappers from their windows onto the road. And pickups with rags, packaging and coffee cups blowing out of the bed at highway speeds. As you stated, Texas faced up to this with a major program of both publicity and enforcement, and the results are very, very good.

Let's get a similar program going for California or at least the Bay area, and stop thinking up new laws to ban everything that can potentially be litter.


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Posted by Nature Boy
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2008 at 12:52 pm

I no longer live in PA so I don't know the bag recycling situation. Where I live now the grocery stores do a couple of things that keeps the bag litter and energy waste down rather well. Both are easier thatn Palo Alto's proposal.

First, they have a campaign to have their checkers fill the bags as full as possible. That reduces the amount used to get customers groceries home. Second, they have bag recycling that's used effectively. One local grocery chain is the largest supplier of raw material to a plastic remanufacturing facility in the region. This is energy and resource efficient recycling--no sending it to Asia for sorting and floating around the commodity market.

Does Pasco Sam take #2 bags? Do the stores? Is there a regional facility that shreds and remolds the bags? Have the PA authorities done an energy balance on these possibilities versus the reusables?


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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm

In case you haven't noticed what is going on in Washington now, the era of small government is over.

There is no reason why you can't bring your own bag to a store..

If for some reason you need a bag, why can't the store charge you $5
for a reusable bag and then give you a $4 credit if you return it.
It would be a win/win for everybody.


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Posted by Win win?
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Win-win for everybody except the stooge who gets stuck with a $1 charge to take home groceries! There's no reason you can't bring your own bag, true - but there's no reason you should have to either!

How about we all start bringing our own packaging for the produce, bread, etc., or have a surcharge for every packaged food item - we can all just bring our own small bags and re-usable containers. Or just outlaw all packaged food and make everyone buy fresh at the farmers market or grow their own?

This is all too silly for words. Who really comes up with this stuff?


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Posted by Kishimoto, Klein and Drekmeier
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 22, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Kishimoto, Klein and Drekmeier


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Posted by just thinkin'
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Remember, some of these same people AVOCATE burying mile of plastic under our streets in the form of fiber-optic cables.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Plastic bags, environmentalism, global warming (hoax) and ... creeping Fascism.

Fascist bureau-rats realize the government doesn't need to OWN industry to CONTROL it. Through REGULATION and TAXATION, fascists know they can achieve CONTROL without the work and responsibility.

Just because none dare say "Fascism" doesn't mean it is dead. Fascism is rising today precisely because no one recognizes it for what it is. Every time you hear politicians talk about "public-private partnerships" they are talking about -- Fascism.

Look at the way we have abdicated our individual liberties in favor of "group rights." That's a fascist concept.

Wake up!


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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2008 at 6:25 am

People are being knocked down, assaulted and robbed in broad daylight and our council is concerned with plastic bags!!! Are our priorities messed up or what????


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Posted by imposter
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 24, 2008 at 4:37 pm

This is terrible. Won't this increase the traffic?


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Posted by Ali
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2008 at 8:25 pm

an interesting show on plastic

Web Link


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