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Palo Alto to ban plastic bags at stores, restaurants

Original post made on Mar 11, 2013

The era of plastic bags is about to come to an end at shops and restaurants throughout Palo Alto after city officials decided Monday night to greatly expand the city's existing ban on the notorious creek polluters.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 11, 2013, 11:11 PM

Comments (77)

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Posted by Stephen Joseph
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 11, 2013 at 11:19 pm

We will be filing a lawsuit to invalidate the ban as it applies to restaurants.

Stephen Joseph
Counsel, Save The Plastic Bag Coalition
savetheplasticbag@earthlink.net


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Posted by T. Tierney
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:15 am

Hey, Steve,

File all the lawsuits you want. You may delay the onset of the additional ban for a while, but the delay won't last for long.

Although I am not a member of any of these environmental or creek organizations, I know that it is time for the plastic manufacturers to give up. The lingering profits that the manufacturers get from the stalling will eventually not be enough to pay for the shills that file the lawsuits.

The numbers are against you. Too many municipalities are extending bans in their communities. In the end, only the few towns that remain without bans will be so embarrassed that they, too, will fall.

An effort to delay implementation is effort that would better spent in a more noble cause.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:01 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

The member of 'Save The Plastic Bag Coalition' are "plastic bag manufacturers, plastic bag distributors, retailers, and concerned citizens. The Coalition was founded by Elkay Plastics and Command Packaging." (Web Link)

This plastics lobby has been suing municipalities that enact plastic bag bans and pricing schemes, in order to protect their profits at the expense of the environment and the municipalities and citizens who try to keep it clean. IMHO, the city should form a class-action suit of the many municipalities that have been sued and threatened by this group, for the unnecessary expenses incurred and infringement of citizen self-rule by these corporations.

Instead of fighting progress and democracy, single-use plastic bags companies should start to switch to the manufacture of truly reusable bags.

Plastic and paper bags are not free. Stores and restaurants buy them, it becomes part of their operating expenses, and they pass the costs to all their customers and/or deduct them from their taxes. You may not be charged for the bags at the counter, but you are charged for it through a slightly increased cost of all of your purchased items. Responsible shoppers who bring their own bags are partially subsidizing those who don't. "free" bags are a financial disincentive to responsible behavior.

By requiring stores to charge (and keep that revenue) for bags at point of use, means that the stores can remove this cost from all of their products for sale. People on a tight budget can then actually save money by bringing their own bags. If 10 cents for a paper bag is really a big financial burden compared to all the items one is putting in that bag, then the next time the shopper will remember to bring their own bag.

The industry argument that we need plastic bags to catch spills from hot liquids has already been addressed in the ordinance in section 5.35.020 (b) i.: "Produce or Product Bags without handles may be used at Food Service Establishments to hold containers of food items that are free liquids such as soups or stews that might be susceptible to spilling." (Web Link)

The city page for this project appears to be here: Web Link


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:03 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

"member" should be "members"


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 7:29 am

In 1970 there were demonstrations at Stanford against plastic bags. Nothing happened then because it wasn't the time for anything to happen on that particular front.
Now it is time.
Be assured that the time for reusable cloth bags will come, too.
I was forced to stop using one product out of environmental concerns, and the substitute product is now known to cause terrible environmental havoc, but the time for its banning hasn't arrived yet.
That's the saddest thing, that we're not free of these limitations.


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Posted by News pollution
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

What's is even more toxic than plastic bags is the newspaper industry.i.e Weekly and other local papers. One study found while digging in a landfill was, guess, that's right a newspaper dating back one hundred year and it looked like it had just came off the printing press.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

The headline is misleading-- if you have plastic bags you are still free to use them at stores and restaurants. The environmental zealots will soon be demanding that all plastic bags be confiscated in palo alto, I imagine, but until that time...
And once again gennady parrots the pap fed to her by the " environmentalists" by calling bags " notorious creek polluters" . Besides being a biased and one sided comment, perhaps gennady would like to provide us with proof of this claim. Poor writing.
As to Cedric's comment about fighting democracy, isn't part of our democracy being able to go to the courts if one feels that a law is wrong? Or does democracy only goes as far as marching lockstep with Cedric and peters misguided beliefs?
Cedric is also naive about stores charging less because they are making revenue from bags--- this will all be additional profit for them. Cedric also demonstrates insensitivity to people's financial situation with his comments.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:15 am

As a consumer, I'm happy to force myself to remember my reusable bags when I shop. Although, I can certainy imagine trying to bring leftovers home from a restaraunt and being unprepared. That could be awkward, and I'm not sure the impact of a ban is particularly meaningful.

I laugh, too, when I think about picking up after my dog. Currently, I tie safeway bags (plastic) to the leash and use them to pick up his waste. Now I'm going to have to buy bags for this purpose. I'm not aware of any product that's convenient and not made of plastic. (any inventors out there want to take this on?) Ultimately though, as a household, the bad wont reduce our use, just change how we get the bags.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

Anon...you'll still be able to buy pet waste bags (smaller that market bags). BUT--- have more faith in capitalism. This is an opportunity for new products to fill the dog poop gap, and they will. The system works.

To citizens who are concerned about cloth shopping bag "germs" --- Wash them.


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:10 am

neighbor,
not everyone will wash them--that's the point
how will capitalism help you tell your kids why some plastic is more equal than other plastic?


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Posted by Annette Puskarich
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:15 am

Thank you to City Council and all who worked on this issue. I hope that more cities take up restrictions like these so that we can finally gain momentum to address this on a statewide level.

I encourage everyone to tour the SMaRT Station (where Palo Alto's garbage is sorted), the Charles Street Materials Recovery Facility (where Palo Alto's recyclables are sorted), and ZBest Composting Facility (where Palo Alto's organic matter is composted) to follow what we discard. It is absolutely astounding and provides a valuable perspective.


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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:37 am

If you don't like this outcome, remember it and vote on Election Day.


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Posted by sparty
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:38 am

Keep ignoring the armed robberies downtown cit council. GOOD JORB!!


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

Annette, remember that in San Mateo County it was about ignoring what we discard and simply getting, by instituting the bag ban, a "credit" for having reduced storm drain waste without any test of whether or not the entity DID reduce waste.


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Posted by wrong
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:53 am

"The city emerged as a leader in this field in 2009, when it banned single-use checkout bags from supermarkets despite concerns from some grocers and a lawsuit from the plastic-bag industry."

Wrong. San Francisco was the leader in 2007
Web Link
"While San Francisco has prohibited the use of plastic bags at large supermarkets and chain pharmacies since 2007"

Does the reporter who wrote the story actually research the "facts" that she is putting out for all to read?


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:00 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@"Not an issue": The bag fee is to be kept by the stores, and will more than offset their current cost of purchasing those bags which are currently given away for free. Some stores may choose to pocket those proceeds and not reduce product prices. Other businesses may choose to be marginally more competitive by passing the savings on to their customers.

Today, stores are disincentivized from directly charging for the cost of the bags because their competitors do not, so they hide the cost in their product prices. Today, you pay for those "free" bags whether you bring your own or not. The ordinance creates a level playing field where all competitors will charge the same for the bags, creating an opportunity to pass those savings on to financially strapped customers. Support for this ordinance is thus more sensitive to the poor than supporting the status quo.

@businessdecision: Most bags used for shopping rarely need to be washed anyway, because store products are generally packaged. You may get some dry garlic or onion skins, or pieces of carrot tops that fall off, just shake them out. If something spills, throw the bag in the wash, wash it by hand, or choose to live with a dirty bag.

Regarding dog poop, there are also biodegradable dog poop bags. There exist lamps in dog parks powered by methane from mini dog poop anaerobic digesters. For example: Web Link, where last two slides have photos of actual installations and a link to a video.

You will still be able to get plastic produce bags. We have been re-using our plastic produce bags for decades, but washing them by hand is a chore. My wife recently found reusable produce bags which can go in the wash so we are switching to those as they are more convenient. Google gives me over 3000 hits when I search the shopping category for washable produce bags.


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:14 am

bags given away = advertising


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Posted by wrong
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:17 am

"Support for this ordinance is thus more sensitive to the poor than supporting the status quo."

Sounds like this "environmentalist" is trying to justify adding a financial burden to the needy without evidence whatsoever. He can feel better about himself and his actions by claiming that those in need will benefit from spending more money. Of course this whole bag ban is a feel good measure that has been pushed through without any real evidence to support it.


"My wife recently found reusable produce bags which can go in the wash so we are switching to those as they are more convenient. Google gives me over 3000 hits when I search the shopping category for washable produce bags."
And washing stuff is good for the environment--releasing detergents etc into the waste water??? Some environmentalist!!!!
But bag bans are latest feel good measure being pushed by Peter and his clique


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:29 am

All the more incentive to buy things on E Bay and Amazon. Bags are a necessary part of commerce. We recycle ours after use.

If the city is genuinely concerned about the environment how about a policy for city vehicles (public works and utilities mostly)to shut off their engines when parked instead of idling curbside forever.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:41 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Further, on the plight of the poor, the ordinance under section 5.35.050 (b) states: "Retail Service Establishments shall not enforce the 10 cent or 25 cent store charge for customers who participate in the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP–formerly food stamps). This provision will expire on June 30, 2014." That give poor people over a year to stock up on free reusable bags.

Washing and reusing bags consumes less water, energy, pollution, and resources than using single use bags once and then recycling them. Like I said, most don't need to be washed every time, and "this environmentalist" uses environmentally-friendly detergents, cold wash water, and solar power. The waste-water detergents are primarily cleaned biologically by microbes in the waste water treatment plant. 95% of single-use plastic bags are not recycled, many end up polluting our ecosystem.


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm

So how much DO we know about these paper bags? Are they really all that reusable? They tear so easily after a handful of uses (I am a re-user of them). Customers in the categories C. mentions will have a place to store a lifetime's supply of these bags?

Bags are essential to commerce but aren't food, so in California they should be taxed, no?


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Great. So the city will pick up our laundry bills when our takeout /leftovers from restaurants leak all over?

And it'll be ok to leave dog poop all over since we'll eventually run out of leftover bags?


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Once again, dear Council. How do pharmacies package prescriptions for individual customers?? How will Macy's handle purchases of towels and washcloths and clothing and cosmetics and whatever? ? Can't you see the upswing in shoplifting?

And by the way, "Gernady" is a 'he", not a 'she',


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm

If California taxed every stupid decision made by politicians, this state wouldn't be in debt.

Unfortunately, the tax burden is heavy in this state...and getting heavier.

It won't be long before some crazy fanatical politician gets the "bright idea" to tax e-mail in order to subsidize the current bureaucratic mess with the Post Office.

The "taxation is always the best solution" brigade will jump on board and talk about Big e-Mail being so bad for Uncle Sam's now-inefficient postal delivery service.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm

There are so many aspects to this that are mind boggling.

I have passed garbage trucks on 101 with a steady stream of litter flying out. This litter ends up in creeks and the Bay, not my bags.

I reuse all the bags I acquire for all sorts of uses. Even my bought garbage bags get used more than once as they start out by lining the recycling can in the kitchen for a couple of uses before becoming the lining of the garbage can.

I use bread bags and produce bags for many things - particularly for messy trash like fish or meat discards that smell, diaper bags, dog poop, etc. Bigger bags get used for wet umbrellas, muddy hiking shoes, returning borrowed items, all bags are reusable and not single use.

If I buy new clothes, towels, I would like to carry them home in something clean and new, not a dusty reusable bag from my trunk.

I am mainly shocked that our strapped city council is wasting time on this when we have so much more important stuff going on in town. Crime, traffic, lack of useful retail, hold ups on the library to name a few are all more important items that need work on - not bags which are littered into our creeks by a tiny percentage of the population who may or may not be Palo Alto residents.

PS, I use reusable grocery bags and still like to put my produce and meat, cleaning supplies and toiletries into small plastic bags before putting them into my own bags.


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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Has anyone from the City checked to see if grocery stores are in compliance with the current law? I don't think they all are.


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Posted by Plastics, hmmm
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

The flimsy bags are very bad as they fly all around and critters get entangled.
And, they truly look like junk. UGLY.
We need boxes on several areas, to put into.
I've changed to bags that are made of old, used plastic bags, and they do hold up very well, and somewhat colorful.


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Posted by wrong
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm

"Further, on the plight of the poor, the ordinance under section 5.35.050 (b) states: "Retail Service Establishments shall not enforce the 10 cent or 25 cent store charge for customers who participate in the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP–formerly food stamps). This provision will expire on June 30, 2014." That give poor people over a year to stock up on free reusable bags."

How magnanamous of Cedric. reminds me of Marie Antoinette saying "let them eat cake".
Not everyone that has financial issues qulaifies for the SNAP program, but that aside, it seems that this environmental agenda takes presedence over common sense.
How these policies affect others and how much they cost is of no concern to these people (these are the same people that are pushing the Byxbee Park project). Everyone must parade in lockstep with their beliefs or else you are not a good person.

I have been saving up plastic bags. I will continue to use these bags in the local grocery stores, hopefully to the unhappiness of the environmental clique in Palo Alto


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Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm

To "Not an Issue" FYI - Gennady is a "he". Part of his job as a PA Weekly reporter is to attend city council meetings, and other city council related functions and REPORT about agenda topics/outcomes, and whatever occurs at the meetings/functions.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Chris--IMHO, gennady s not doing a good job-- misleading headlines, biased reporting ( the notorious creek comment) and outright errors ( claiming palo alto was first with a bag ban) .
Also, IMHO, the weekly has an agenda. Gennady as an employee is expected to fulfill that agenda. The weekly ceased a long time ago to be an unbiased, reliable news source.
Finally, this is not the first case of shoddy reporting by gennady.
BTW, how do you know what gender gennady is?


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@businessdecision who wrote, "So how much DO we know about these paper bags? Are they really all that reusable?" You can check out the Draft EIR at Web Link, while the draft ordinance at Web Link gives specifications on the required durability for reusable bags. The "reusable bags" are specified to be more sturdy than your basic brown paper bag.

@Resident, who wrote, "If I buy new clothes, towels, I would like to carry them home in something clean and new, not a dusty reusable bag from my trunk." Then pay 10 cents for a bag at the store, it will be an undetectable fraction of the cost of your new clothes. If you can't afford the 10 cents, you probably can't afford that new pair of jeans. Alternately, turn in two cans for the 5 cents each California Redemption Value, and you've earned yourself one bag. After that, keep the bag and reuse it.

@wrong & @"Not an issue", with their proclaimed concern for the welfare of the poor, my guess is their concern is a cynical use of heart-string pulling argument, targetted against government action. Do they support a living wage, increased development of below market rate housing, expansion of public transportation, expansion of Food Stamp programs, healthy school lunches, education and rehabilitation over incarceration, programs to increase the energy efficiency of impoverished homes, environmental justice, ending hunger in america, single-payer healthcare, donating or volunteering at a food bank, or habitat for humanity, etc.? These are the things that really affect the poor. I have done these things. Have you? If not, wipe up your crocodile tears, I'm not buying them.


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm

sorry, Cedric, I am pretty sure most people don't know that these ten cent bags had to be up to a certain standard. all the more reason to tax 'em!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Cedric

Yes of course I can pay for my paper bags, but why should I pay to carry around their advertising?

I find it interesting that of all my valid points, the only one you choose to answer is the easiest to counter.

The real point is that it is a ridiculous waste of time for our city council when we have more important local issues than whether I let my bags go in the creek which I don't - and most Palo Altans are the same. This seems like pettiness to the nth degree.

And where, may I ask, do I go with the cans (which I don't have since I don't buy soda or beer in cans on a regular basis) to get back my CA redemption money?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm

The real point is that a ridiculous amount of time and bizarre/specious arguments have appeared on this thread. All this about shopping bags ?????

Palo Alto has some REAL problems...serious life/death issues on the streets, and real mental health issues among the young people.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

@Cedric de La Beaujardiere - You are right, people should just pay the dime or quarter for a paper bag and let it be a reminder that you get what you vote for. Vegetables are the largest source of food borne contamination. So if you are buying either meat or product at the grocery store, which most people buy, spend the dime and keep you family safe.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm

To Not an Issue

Gennady is a very nice fellow. Ever met him? He's got a very good command of the English language and grammar, which few reporters have in this day and age. They are products of our public school systems which are very deficient in teaching grammar and composition. Usually he is very thorough and has had award-winning stories. But you are correct in the Weekly being 'unbiased'. Too often its bias shines through. It glares.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@Resident, who wrote, "And where, may I ask, do I go with the cans (which I don't have since I don't buy soda or beer in cans on a regular basis) to get back my CA redemption money?" Not just cans, but glass and -- gasp! :) -- plastic bottles as well. "CRV is 5 cents for each beverage container less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater." There's one place behind Molly Stones at the corner of Park and Cambridge. Open I think Tu-Sat. (I happen to know the days because I just swung by today asking if they'd seen an old friend of mine who is unfortunately living on the streets, but who I haven't seen in too long.) There may be other places nearby, but I don't know where.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I have to wonder where Cedric bases his claim that stores will lower their prices so poor people will save money in the long run. Safeway charges for bags in San Jose . Are groceries cheaper there? I think not-- same prices based on the ad circulars they pass out in this area. Has Cedric actually spoken to any local grocers? I see this as more of the fuzzy math that Cedric et al is famous for.
Of course this whole thing is based on a " big lie". The claim that these bags are single use. It is clear that the vast majority of people reuse these bags. Even Cedric says he does . So How are they single use? They are not. But Cedric et al needs to base his claim on a big lie. Same with the claims of bags in the creek. Sounds terrible. But is it true.
As another poster stated, Cedric, you are the one telling people to let them eat cake. I am sure you have no clue on how hard it is or some people to get by and how pennies matter. The environmental agenda must be followed regardless of the cost to the public. Nice try though to change the subject by listing your accomplishments.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Bob- the issue is not if he is a nice guy or if he uses proper grammar. The issue is misleading headlines, biased reporting and lack of knowledge of the facts. Now he may be doing it because that is the Weekly's agenda. But his name is in the byline. But we agree on the weekly as a whole


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Posted by Paco
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Too funny! Councilmembers worry about plastic bags while the city enters it's 12th year of deficit budgets. While the Palo Alto Weekly claims that plastic bags are "notorius creek polluters", I have yet to see one Palo Alto Weekly staff member in the numerous creek clean-up events I have attended. Perhaps if they did attend just one event they might be surprised to find that the biggest or "notorious creek polluters" are daily and weekly newspapers and shopping carts. This past fall we collected 23 shopping carts and incredible amounts of newspapers clogging our creeks (plastic bags were far down the list of items recovered). Hope to see the Palo Alto Weekly staff and/or City Council members at our next creek clean-up event so that they may report the facts and make intelligent decisions instead of relying on concocted information provided by lobbyists.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Paco-- thanks. I said it before, I see more discarded Weekly papers on the streets. Cedric et al and the council should work to ban the weekly. Plus they are definitely single use!


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@"Not an issue", if my math seems fuzzy to you, you need new glasses.

I base my supposition that stores may lower their prices on the principle of a capitalist market, where many companies try to undercut each others' prices to lure shoppers, and where every penny can count in how to lower prices. Walmart has been very efficient in this. Of course, the other principle is to charge as much as the market will bear, and around here, with lots of relatively rich people, that may be the winning principle. I think places like Walmart, Target, and maybe Safeway will be more likely to reduce their prices once they can externalize the cost of the bags, whereas places like Apple and Whole Foods will go with what the market will bear. People who really need to stretch their pay check are more likely to shop at the stores which draw in customers through low prices and which are therefore more likely to pass the savings on to the customer.

The truth is, most people don't reuse those single use bags. They may use them once more to pick up their dog's poo (hopefully rather than leave it behind) or to line their mini trash can. Because they are given away for free, they have a low perceived value, and the personal cost is too high to save, store, wash, and reuse them. Only about 5% of them get recycled. The rest end up in the trash or in our environment. I have participated in creek cleanups and seen all those bags in the creeks and caught in trees. Go into San Francisquito Creek over by El Palo Alto when it is not flooded and see for yourself. Even when they are recycled, it's not really closing the loop. The bags get converted into plastic lumber, and there is no further recycling of the plastic lumber. At least paper can be recycled many times, or composted. And if paper ends up in our environment, it breaks down into soil.


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Posted by newspaper reader
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Will my newspaper still come in a plastic bag on rainy days or will it be a soggy mess?


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 7:41 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
So bottom line, you have no evidence that prices will drop and poor people will save more money in the long run. You were just trying to explain away your seeming disregard for the hardship others may encounter due to the bag ban. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Then you do it again-- make conclusions without any evidence , claiming that MOST people do not reuse bags. Then you contradict that by saying that people may use the more than once-- so you are proving the big lie about the term single use.
Finally, I believe it ha been mentioned in the press that 200+ bags were recovered in the creek prior to the recent plastic bag ban. There has beenno follow up to see how many bags are there now. That is quite a small number given the number of residents in the city.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 8:13 pm

gsheyner is a registered user.

Dear Readers,

Thanks for your comments. Just wanted to chime in on a few issues.

1) I am in fact a "he." Sorry for the confusion.

2) I never said that Palo Alto was "the first to ban plastic bags" as some above falsely allege (saying the city was "a leader" in 2009 and that it "helped" to launch the trend is not -- at least in my mind -- the same thing as saying it was the the very first city to ban them).

3) It's true that I didn't run over to the creeks before the meeting to verify whether plastic bags are indeed floating around. It's also true that I don't hack into the city's bank accounts to verify the data in the budget, conduct head counts when I write about employee staffing levels, or demand birth certificates when I write about ages of burglary suspects. In this case, I relied on anecdotes and statistics from Public Works staff, observations from people who do creek cleanups, photos of bags in the Baylands, and personal observations. While it's also true that I haven't participated in creek clean-up events, I have spent enough time around local creeks and other open-space preserves to know that plastic bags end up there (whether they're the #1 creek polluter or not -- I honestly don't know).

4) Lastly, to those of you who harbor conspiracy theories about the Weekly's "agenda" or "biases," thank you for reading and commenting on this forum despite your reservations. I believe that objective reporting is a valuable ideal and I try my best to be unbiased in covering City Hall. I feel lucky to have you all here to tell me if I'm missing the mark.

Gennady


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm

The city was a follower in 2009, SF was the leader. Palo alto thinks that they have to be the " leader" on these issues. Maybe that is why infrastructure is ignored for these feel good issues. All you are doing is perpetuating the myth.
But you admit that your use of the term notorious creek polluter is not based on any factual material or evidence that you have gathered-- it is anecdotal based on what the local environment talists have told you. Shouldn't a real reporter look to see f there claims are true? Anyway hacking a bank account is illegal ( so your comparison is bogus), verifying an age can be done from the police report, checking a claim is doable, if you want to make the effort.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jill
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Does Menlo Park ban plastic bags? Are they going to charge for paper bags, just like Palo Alto. Can someone answer this for me?


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:24 pm

All this for a claimed 150 bags? Over what time period? Notice the obfuscation of "over two events."

So basically the city is mandating us to pay merchants more money to use bags? The cost of the bags was built into the cost already. I seriously doubt merchants will reduce the price of their goods.

What kind of stupid idea was this? A tax that goes straight to merchants? This Lunda more like wealth redistribution than sound policy. But what do you expect from people who live in a bubble.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:02 am

Jill, Menlo Park's ban goes into effect on Earth Day. One Council member wanted to make some changes, but no change can be made without having to re-do the EIR. Paper bags will cost ten cents for a while. The same groups mentioned in Cedric's posts will be exempted from having to pay for the paper bags.
I think by Earth Day it will be hard to find a place to shop in your area that does not have this ban although San Carlos's, I think, is slightly delayed.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:18 am

Perhaps the editors will again remove my post -- which was not salacious or defamatory or insulting.

I simply asked that citizens focus on Palo Alto's real and very serious problems, instead of continuing this way-too-long discussion of plastic bags.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:46 am

I'm still waiting for a response from the City Council from more than a month ago re the news that CA consumers are finally getting refunds from the Enron ripoff of about 12 years ago.

I wrote to ask them if PA is joining other cities in this and if not, why not. I provided the news stories about it from my Google alert. Not one of our fearless leaders responded.

Obviously they have nonsense like this to worry about instead of getting each household a refund totaling in the THOUSANDS of dollars.


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Posted by Mirror
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm

If there's all this other important stuff to worry about, why are all you people here discussing THIS issue.

This bag issue has been decided upon and is now about to go into affect. Don't you have anything more important to comment on?
Hahaha :)


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Posted by I like Plastic Bags
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Preparing for city councils from all over the Bay Area hopping on the Plastic Bag Ban, we stocked up on plastic bags from grocery stores, but they are larger than the smaller sized commerical bags, that's ideal. My family now has hundreds of bags - and in very little space.

If the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition people wanted to do a community service, they'd sell directly to homeowners. Then we'd not have to go to grocery stores and we'd have the perfect size bag.

Our family never used bags for one-time use. We'd save them for trash-can liners, then tie the bag securely, tossing it into the main garbage can.

I remember one of your esteemed councilmembers admitted to not knowing the City of Palo Alto owned the facilities that were on the east side of Hwy 101 that houses Utilities, etc. So I'd not be surprised if everyone, to a person, in every city council across the Bay Area that's now banning plastic bags, never personally looked into the true conditions. Instead, councilmen/women are on a power trip, banning things that are their own pet peeves.

Neither Gennady nor the Weekly can be blamed. They only report what people (supposedly experts) tell them. If citizens don't like the outcome, we need to speak up. Sunnyvale also banned plastic. So just stock up on them from grocery stores. Granted, they're bigger, but it works.

Funny thing is that we stopped using paper bags, to save trees, and they rip too easily. I'd not pay a thing for paper bags. But I like plastic.


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Posted by The Real World
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2013 at 3:22 pm

While driving on Cambridge in the California Ave. area, close to the Weekly, about 10 minutes ago, I saw a young girl about age 25 on a bike with a large paper bag filled with groceries from Country Sun, waiting to cross the street.

As she came to the curb, she lost control of her bike, tipping over, and spilling out her groceries onto the street, looking as if she broke a bottle that was inside.

Another young woman (who was in a car) saw her fall, and came to her rescue, giving her a cloth bag from either Country Sun, or perhaps from Whole Foods.

Had the girl on the bike been able to use a plastic bag (or two) and it was tied closed, it would have saved her a mess.

With the greying of the Bay Area, I can't see myself on a bike with groceries. But the take-away from what I saw is this: carry plastic bags with you, have them handy. People like the girl in the car may not be the norm.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Check out this 2:40 minute preview for the documentary "the clean bin project", which is showing this Friday eve at Barron Park Elementary at 7:30: Web Link It's about two individuals competing to be zero waste, but is also has of images abundant plastic. (the event announcement says, "Family-friendly. Feel free to get casual (wear your pajamas), bring your sleeping bag or bean bag to be comfy watching the movie (or for the kids to fall asleep).")


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2013 at 5:37 pm

In this zero waste contest, how do the contestants minimize their fecal matter and urine? Is this movie recommended to us because it will be the next demand made by the environmentalists to further their agenda? So that we can see how to minimize waste regardless of effects on quality of life?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 6:03 pm

The Sunset Magazine zero waste family Web Link has had a lot of criticism.

Buying her children's clothes from Goodwill, but what does she do with their worn out clothes? Donate them back to Goodwill?

Does she homeschool? Because otherwise she gets a never ending spiel of papers which I don't suppose anyone would want to keep for ever.

Buying all her food loose? But does she not ever grab pizza on the way home because there is no time to cook from scratch?

Some people actually have lives and don't want to spend all the effort required for this green no waste vegan lifestyle.


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:22 pm


We use the paper grocery bags to put our garbage in. Are we now supposed to BUY plastic bags so we will have something to put our garbage in? Or are we supposed to just toss it loose into the bin and have a gross, smelly mess?

Also, it sounds as if there is a need for public education about not littering, whether plastic bags or newspapers.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@Not an issue: Are you furthering your trolling agenda?
@Resident: Actually, you CAN bring your used clothes and rags to Goodwill, they take them where they will be recycled into rags. The process: Web Link, Palo Alto Recylopedia: Web Link, see "Cloth, Fabric, Rags"
@Dan, you can still buy those same paper bags at checkout, though it may be cheaper to buy them in bulk (for instance, you'll save $13 with Web Link and it is still made of recycled content). We too use brown paper bags for our kitchen garbage, and as long as they are not too gross I reuse them repeatedly as a trash liner. In the future I will put the gross ones in the city compost instead of the landfill.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Do any of you have a teacher, who if one kid in class mis-behaved, the teacher would make everyone stay in class during recess?

All the kids who behaved, always thought "why am I being punished, I didn't do anything wrong".

This plastic bag ban reminds me of the same situation. The article writes: "Julie Weiss, an environmental specialist in the Public Works Department, said that while the supermarket ban helped reduce the number of plastic bags in the city, they remain in wide usage. In the last two creek cleanup events, volunteers collected about 150 plastic bags from the creeks, she said. "We know we have a problem because we're seeing it in our creeks," Weiss said.

So because probably 20-30 people out of a population of 63,000 residents littered their plastic bags, the city council acting like they are some sort of ruling royalty are going to punish the other 62,675 innocent residents.

The city council & city staff have let their emotions affect their sense of perspective.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

A once-a-year creek clean up will only scratch the surface of how many bags make it into our environment. A more reliably obtained statistic is how many of the distributed plastic bags end up in recycling. I think it is more telling that only 5% of the single-use plastic bags get recycled. So that means most Palo Altans who get plastic bags are not recycling them.

I think it is important to remind ourselves how much energy, water, oil, and other resources we are wasting every day to make things that are used once, maybe twice, then discarded. Even recycling is energy intensive compared to reuse or reduce. Next time you go out to lunch, look down at your place setting and ask yourself, each year, how many plastic forks do I use, plastic cups, compostable plates, paper napkins? That movie preview I linked to had a mind-boggling image representing all of the plastic cups consumed every 6 hours on airline flights. Each little piece embodies a bundle of wasted energy and resources, multiplied over 300 million Americans, billions of people globally. Our technology gives us great power to destroy and to never see the damage we inadvertently cause. With great power comes great responsibility, which we have not been exercising.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:07 am

Cedric, your manipulation of "recycle %" is not worthy of the environmental cause you claim to represent.

The vast majority of these plastic bags get reused, which is why we see so many people upset with the "Stalinist doublespeak" by calling the bags "single use": they are used when people pick up dog poop, as waste basket liners, as organizers, etc.

And what about all the costs from people who get sick from the transmittal of bacteria & viruses from the "resuable bags"? and what of all the water resources used to wash the "reusable bags"? and what of all the detergents that are put in the enviornment from washing the "reusable bags"? and what about some of the material used to manufacture some reusable bags, like lead?

And why are you seeking to punish the 99.9% of the residents who never litter, who are good stewards of their environment, just because the .1% of irresponsible residents who do litter?

I see you don't want to address that issue, of how you treat the 99.9% through a "collective punishment" solution.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:24 am

Cedric if you don't like the number of plastic forks used at restaurants, eat at another restaurant.

How about all the paper cups at Starbucks. Ban Starbucks because they create too much trash.

How about all the trash generated at junk fast food restaurants. Ban them.

How about all the extra bags generated from double banning bread. Ban them.

How about banning kleenex and make us all use real handkerchiefs.

How about banning napkins and paper towels and making us use real ones and washing them.

Planes won't let us take our own drinks on board so we have to use their plastic cups but strangely they are going to start letting us take knives. Why not do some preaching there.

How about letting us choose what type of trash we throw out. Our family uses very little paper plates, forks, drinks containers. We do like the occasional plastic bag at a supermarket and we reuse even our plastic trash bags as they get used for the recycling can a couple of times before being used to line the trash can - in other words we generate a lot more recycling than we do trash.

Start preaching at the coffee shops in town. Biggest place generating single use cups. I would love to get them banned! But I accept that others like them so my opinion is irrelevant.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2013 at 7:46 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Why not BAN any the selling of any item that needs a plastic bag to contain the item during transport?

1)Cloth bags LEAK
2)Washing small loads (of cloth bags)is just about as resource inefficient as hand washing (which WASTES more water per item)
Once again the Pro Washing zealots forget that not all residential units have Washers.

Why stop, BAN all plastic packaged Retail Items, especially those that use those hard to dispose Styrofoam blocks surrounding the item.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:22 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

There is a more systematic approach that would solve all these problems while letting the market decide the winners. It was presented by Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken in their book, "Natural Capitalism" (Web Link). I'll paraphrase their argument: tax energy and resources, but not services.

Virgin resources whose extraction is damaging, or material which cause problematic pollution or disposal could be taxed more. Recycled materials may not be taxed at all, except for the energy and pollution and resources they require to perform the recycling. (There could arguably be a need to address the needs of the poor, for whom the cost of goods is a much higher percentage of their income or lack thereof than for the mega rich.)

After that, whoever provides competing goods and services through the most efficient and least polluting means will have the lowest cost of input material and the opportunity to provide the lowest cost of product. As a consumer, you'd be free to purchase a more polluting product, but it would cost you more.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Cedric- My " agenda" is not driven by the use of the " big lie", fuzzy math, mistepresentation of facts , scare tactics and inaccurate descriptions. My agenda does not nvolve instituting a nanny state, where the " experts" lecture people on how they should be living their lives and telling people that they are the only ones who know what is best for the environment.
The same people that are doing this are the ones who want the city to spend tens of millions of dollars on their fantasy project for by byxbee park


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:18 am

Environmentalism is the new religion. The next thing is to have inquisitions where they sift through your trash and send you to jail for violating their rules based on no real science.

(at least we were able to put a stop that earlier, but you know this stupid idea will come back again by the do-nothings at our municipal utility)


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

I believe someone was saying something about scare tactics?


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Posted by The Real World
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:53 am

It's easier for city councils to concern themselves with trivial matters brought to them by staff and by a handful of devotees, that when studied, amount to little in the grand scheme of society, than to tackle large, well-known and identified problems in a community, that require depth of knowledge, professionalism and conviction by council.

It's the "There ought to be a law" mentality. But often, there ought not to be a law. I agree with "Not an Issue".

Just stock up on plastic bags, purchased from the grocery store. Sadly, many are Made in China, so who knows what they'll do to the environment, after they decompose or are otherwise destroyed.


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Posted by Paco
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm

It's a moot point in arguing for or against common sense. Ignorance has won and the misinformed proudly display their victory. They have championed their ability to convince those elected officials who are easily, if not sadly, swayed by lobbyists who work only to further their opinion as to what is right for all. Concocted facts and misinformation are unfortunately easily accepted without rebuttal and condoned by our city officials. How sad. What a pity!


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Scare tactics? In some laces nspectors do check your garbage and you are fined if you throw out recyclable material.
I can see in our future that this is what our local environmentalists would love to do. And I know who will be the chief garbage checker and his loyal assistant


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

fined is one thing, and could be re-framed as charging you the cost of processing what could have been recycled. But you said jail, which is where the distortion and scare tactics come to play.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm

You need to read the postings more carefully, Cedric. I mentioned the scare tactics and mentioned fines if you are caught by the " we know best about the environment " police. I never mentioned jail time-- that was another poster. But I would not put it past the local " environmentalists" to demand stiff fines, community service or jail time to get everyone to March in lockstep with them.
I am sure the local environmental czar and his faith ful servant are working on that now


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:12 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

You replied to my reply to Toady so I mixed you up. First Toady mentions jail and now you just did. I don't see a single "scare tactic" by me in this thread, though I see plenty from various opponents. I have pointed out the actuality of significant wasted energy and resources through massive accumulation of little amounts. But it will be difficult to make sound policy decisions if we can not discuss the actual state of affairs in this world just because reality may be scary. We can stick our heads in the sand, but it won't solve our problems.


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Posted by Poop scooper
a resident of Woodside
on Apr 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm

There is a solution out there for dog owners! I would like to eliminate plastic waste from the landfills, but also keep my dogs poop from ending up on my neighbors shoe or worse yet, in our water stream. I found a new poop bag company based in Chicago that has created a landfill biodegradable poop bag. It will biodegrade in an anaerobic environment, unlike those impostors out there. I have read they are even having the bags independently lab tested. The bags are called the Green line, I bought mine at www.shopbarkbarkclub.com. The company that makes the bags is at www.loft312.com. Finally, a responsible company trying to "doo" the right thing!


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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 30, 2013 at 7:03 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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