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Businesses win time to create new 'bag' policy

Original post made on Apr 29, 2008

Grocers, pharmacy owners and industry lobbyists secured three additional months to develop a more comprehensive assault on single-use bags Monday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 7:24 AM

Comments (30)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2008 at 8:47 am

I am very glad to see that the ban is not going to happen - at least not yet.

Better would be an awareness campaign, particularly at smaller stores who give out loads of unwanted wrappings of various sorts. Asking if you require a bag would be a start. A one item purchase could easily be put into a purse or doubled with shopping from a previous store. How about Stanford Mall issuing disposable bags to anyone shopping which can then be used at all stores.

Rather than banning either plastic or paper, get some innovative alternatives ideas to get the public into the habit, but leave some leeway for those who seldom shop (husbands and teenagers) or those who are shopping on spec or have forgotten.


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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2008 at 9:29 am

"Vice Mayor Peter Drekmeier and Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto said they would support charging a fee for bags.

"The question shouldn't be plastic or paper. It should be reusable," Drekmeier said. "

Perhaps Drekmeir, kishimoto and the third member of the "Climate change is our life" troika, Klein, can push through legislation banning the possession and use of plastic and paper bags in Palo Alto.

This whole issue needs to be thought through more clearly, taking into consideration that most people tend to re-use their bags for othe purposes for which their is currently no substitute.

it looks to me that this another, typical, Palo Alto knee jerk reaction to a problem. The important thing for some of our council members is not to address the problem in a well thought out manner, but to do something quickly so that they can pat themselves on the back for addressing "climate change" and look good whne they go gallivanting around the country telling people how we do things here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 29, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Have to agree there with NSF. This is a high priority in Palo Alto because...??


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Posted by Not so slow
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 29, 2008 at 1:07 pm

The reasons are so well known and so well publicized, you must be asleep not to know the reasons. Don't bore us here with your ignorance.
NSF, you might be more believable if you didn't misspell so many words.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Yes the reasons are well known and well publicized - so what? The harm to wildlife is based on the misinterpretation of one study, subsequently corrected, the slow biodegradability is of little consequence and like all such studies and nannyfascist ordinances, the convenience and time of the consumer is deemed of no value. Palo Alto government - itching powder in the fabric of society.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Recovered Plastiholic
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2008 at 2:26 pm

NSF and Me Too, doesn't it bother you that plastic particles outnumber zooplankton in our oceans by as much as a 6:1 ratio (because they don't biodegrade, and ultimately that's where our plastics end up)?

Where will change happen if our local leaders don't stand up for it? In Washington? Ya think? The sooner someone takes a stand on it, the faster we can put the brakes on this highly wasteful and toxic use of plastics (a petroleum product).

This one is a no-brainer and I think we'll all adjust just fine.



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Posted by Reident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm

If we really are concerned about wildlife, then we should ban the plastic collars that keep six packs of beer or soda or bottled drinks together. These harmful rings get stuck around animals and do all sorts of damage.

But, then at the moment this is not the hot topic so don't expect those one banned.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Recovered Plastiholic
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Resident, those plastic collars are an example of responsible action you can take at home. Before you throw those in the trash, snip them with scissors so that there are no loops. Unfortunately, there's nothing like that we can do at home to address the plastic bag problem, aside from simply not using them -- an action many of us have already comfortably taken.


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Posted by Recovered Plastiholic
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2008 at 3:42 pm

BTW, would someone remind me of the protocol -- Do we dignify comments from Walter E Wallis with any kind of acknowledgment?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Recovered

Exactly my point. I can do that at home and do. However, many don't so should we ban them? I can and do recycle my bags which come with anything from bread to underwear. However, many don't so should we ban them?

Many of us go about our lives sensibly but the occasional plastic bag can be useful and if not, can be recycled. But there are those who just put them in the trash, or worse let them fly wherever. So.......


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Posted by dignity
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Recovered Plastiholic -


Walter earns or doesn't earn his own dignity, just as you do or don't.

Protocol is to avoid gratuitous ad hominem comments.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Recovered Plastiholic
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2008 at 9:39 pm

OK, dignity, fair enough and point well taken. I just have a hard time zipping it when someone says things like, "The harm to wildlife is based on the misinterpretation of one study, subsequently corrected...." I always worry that some innocent reader out there might fall under the impression that he's citing actual facts.


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Posted by Recovered Plastiholic
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Resident, you're right, I think we're on the same page. It's just a matter of picking our battles, right? Let's look at the volume of plastic bags that people accumulate. If you're recycling them, then you see how quickly you can accrue a big pile of them without even trying.

There are stores even here in progressive PA where the clerks resist me when I try to use my own bags. They have their routine and they don't want it broken. In conservation, reducing is always more critical than recycling and even re-using, and so reducing is where it has to start.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 29, 2008 at 11:59 pm

RC, you seem to have passion on this. But no, the ratio of plastic particles to zooplankton doesn't really move me (since I don't really know if it matters at all). Maybe it will move others, and you can persuade stores to stop using them and customers to stop asking for them. Or encourage use/development of degradable plastic bags (there seem to be plenty on the web if you Google it). But the idea that it rises to the level of passing a law/tax - I just don't get it, sorry.

The REAL question is why a small city like ours, facing some serious fiscal challenges (top most underfunded infrastructure investment and excess labor costs), should be spending its time and resources on THIS. Even in the context of environmental issues, this is PR sideshow. Taking on something like carry-out bags and calling it "leadership" is nothing short of a sad joke. The Homer Bike Tunnel is to infrastructure issues as plastic bags are to environmental issues.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2008 at 1:13 am

...and yet the city has not yet seen fit to ban the sale of slave grown chocolate products. Anyone know how long it takes an oyster shell to biodegrade?
The protocol for responding to my comments is either to submit a rational counter argument or to, as usual, launch yet another Jeremiad about my perceived failings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ted
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 3:03 am

The huge quantity of plastic sacks decorating our freeways and streets is coming from uncovered recycling trucks going to landfills or dumps. Bayshore is usually a disaster for its entire length from an unbelievable amount of debris including styrofoam and plastic sacks. Clean, it up and it's back there the next day - and this is not coming from soccer moms tossing stuff out the windows. . There IS a cover-the-load law which the CHP doesn't have time to enforce. But I will agree that the first place to ban plastic is at fast food stores. I do think that an hysteria mode has hit our City Council which does not seem alarmed that cars are being damaged by terrible city streets. Bad streets are
not politically glamorous. Plastic sacks are now the mortal sin of civic life.

Right now residents cannot recycle plastic bags through the city curb side pickup service. A resident has to collect the bags and take them to the Recycling Center, which we do once a month, or to a store like Safeway. But the opportunity is there. So perhaps the city needs to look at a way for residents to dispose of plastic sacks (like morning paper rainy day covers) with the weekly pick up.

Texas has a "Don't mess with Texas" program - and the highways are in good shape. California is one of the filthiest states in the nation and it started getting worse about 1995 when cities began trucking debris to a canyon south of San Jose.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Let's Get With It !
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2008 at 6:03 am

China is trying to get their provinces to stop using plastic bags.
Let's not let China beat us on this one!

Check this out:

Web Link

And Thailand has been trying to reduce their plastic bag problem for more than 10 years. This is from 7-11 Stores in Thailand

Web Link

And Katmandu, Nepal

Web Link

Plastic bags litter every part of Asia. Is is a real problem. They do not have landfills. They cling to trees, waterways, float in the oceans, it is just horrible, they are everywhere!

As you can see, Palo Alto is not the forerunner in this concern.
It is easy to search google to see that that many countries and provinces have already banned them.

Let's get with it!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:17 am

You can ban them all you want in Palo Alto, but it will make little or no difference.

Most people I know in Palo Alto don't shop in Palo Alto, particularly for things other than groceries. Most of my plastic bags (I use reusable for groceries) come from Target, Walmart, Mervyns, etc. And, I often say no thanks to bags and recycle what I get. Most of the these plastic bags come from my husband or teenagers and their shopping trips and try as I might, they are not as good as saying no thanks than I am.

So, banning PA bags won't stop plastic bags coming into PA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ban ALL you want !!!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:49 am

Please ban these. I dont shop Palo Alto anyways.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ban ALL you want !!!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:49 am

Please ban these. I dont shop Palo Alto anyways.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Recovered Plastiholic
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:52 am

Resident, you're right that stores in other cities will still offer plastic bags -- for the moment. But I think the idea is that Palo Alto wants to set a model for Mountain View and other cities to adopt (just as, in fact, it's borrowing and adapting SF's model). It has to start somewhere, so (as Let's Get With It said) let's get with it. (Thanks, LGWI.)

p.s. About that plankton to plastics ratio. The problem is that plankton is like the corn or the rice of the ocean -- it's the staple food of marine life, and fish can't discern between a plastic particle and an actual organism. So they eat the plastic, but they can't digest it and it stays in their systems. If they eat enough (and many do), it kills them. Larger animals eat the smaller ones, and so on, right up the food chain. In short, we are killing off the fish and marine mammals (and birds) with our plastics. This is not just a bleeding heart, "we love wildlife" story. Consider how much of the world's population subsists on sea food as a dietary staple.


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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2008 at 10:09 am

From today's PA Daily News:

Web Link

From that article:

"Mayor Larry Klein said that while he typically pushes for faster implementation of climate change-related actions, in this case the extra three months might be worth the wait."

To bad Mayor Larry does not push for faster implementation of actions when it comes to city-related issues that are not his pet project.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 10:20 am

RP - that's nice, though the links missing in the logic chain are pretty numerous - do the bits come from plastic shopping bags vs. other sources, are bits actually (vs theoretically) killing animals, how many of them, etc. There are certainly issues that rise to the level of regulation (chlorofluorocarbons come to mind) but the case has to be made pretty clearly. Has it been?

In the meantime, the main point is still priorities - our city government is like political theater, working issues like this for entertainment instead of focusing on the hum-drum business of running a small city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not so slow
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 10:41 am

Congratulations Not so fast!
Only one spelling error in your last post! You are getting there, keep up the good work!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Addison Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2008 at 10:41 am

To Me Too and others who are complaining about the city's priorities: Wake up. The plastic bag ban, if it happens, will happen because there are those of us who are concerned about it and are making it happen. Not just moaning about it here on Town Square, but getting out there and starting an action. If you want something fixed, feel free to go out and make it happen.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2008 at 10:45 am

Not so slow--too bad you harp on spelling errors rather than the problems that our city council refuses to address in a timely manner. I guess you think you are being amusing.
Just because I voted against you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Recovered Plastiholic
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2008 at 11:36 am

Here's some background, Me Too. There's a lot of research and fact documenting this discussion (i.e., plastic:plankton ratio, and the effects of plastics in the ocean).

Plastic bags (and other plastics) end up in the ocean any number of ways: they blow there from landfills or garbage trucks or boats/ships, or people burn trash, and the particulate matter from the burning settles into the oceans.

Damage to wildlife is best documented in birds, because we see it on land and don't have to go out into the oceans to find it. But the problem is also well documented by marine biologists studying increasing numbers of dead fish.

Here are some links:
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Web Link

[An excerpt from the above article:]
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is particularly dangerous for birds and marine life, said Warner Chabot, vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group.

Sea turtles mistake clear plastic bags for jellyfish. Birds swoop down and swallow indigestible shards of plastic. The petroleum-based plastics take decades to break down, and as long as they float on the ocean's surface, they can appear as feeding grounds.

"These animals die because the plastic eventually fills their stomachs," Chabot said. "It doesn't pass, and they literally starve to death."

The Greenpeace report found that at least 267 marine species had suffered from some kind of ingestion or entanglement with marine debris.
[End excerpt]

Web Link

Web Link


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Thanks RP. Looking just at the first link, though, it looks like this suggests a different problem and solution:

"What we can do is ban plastic fast food packaging," Chabot [Ocean Conservancy spokesman] said, "or require the substitution of biodegradable materials, increase recycling programs and improve enforcement of litter laws."

The article mentions that clear plastic (like for food wrapping) as a big problem. And they suggest fast food packaging, not grocery bags, should be banned.

The second article from Seattle was similar - I didn't see any mention of plastic bags, though many mentions of other kinds of plastics.

So, while I respect the passion, "ban plastic bags" seems like a knee-jerk response based on an easy target, rather than a thoughtful solution to the problem you point out (still not sure how big a problem, btw). This reinforces my sense that the city doesn't really have a clue about this - it is a PR opportunity only. Rather than dabble in things about which they know almost nothing, city government should focus on their job: city services, city infrastructure, cost control, and revenue sources.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna S.
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

So, do all you anti-plastic-baggists use single-use plastic bags for your garbage? Or do you use cloth for that as well? I'm really puzzled about this. Personally I reuse the plastic checkout bags -- for trash, diaper bags, bagging laundry, all kinds of things. Now, I guess I will have to buy trash bags (which are thicker than checkout bags, and therefore worse for the environment), and then, I don't know, ask the checkers to bag my grocieries in them. Seems a little stupid.


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Posted by Addison Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm

What garbage? :-)

Seriously, a lot of us Palo Altans who are watching what we consume and how we consume it are NOT doing a very good job of filling our trash cans every week. But we are not yet zero-waste. It's funny about plastic bags, how they stick around. I stopped accepting plastic bags from stores several years ago, and I still manage to find about a bag a week in my stash of bags to covers the one Long's Drugs size-bag of trash we produce each week. We recycle, we only buy as much food as we need, and we don't buy things with excessive, nonrecyclable packaging.

I have never bought trash bags, but if you have to, I think you can get ones made from recycled plastic at Whole Foods.

Worth noting that we don't have a dog to clean up after. Can anyone suggest a non-plastic-bag solution for pet waste?


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