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Original post made
on Nov 5, 2008
I am outraged at the present council, ignoring the wishes of residents and must making life tougher for us all. Wet newspapers in the morning,
soggy paper bags with the bottoms falling out, broken milk cartons on the pavement, nothing to line our wastebaskets with, difficulties packing for backpacking trips (with no ready source of plastic bags to individually wrap food and clothing items), the list goes on endlessly.
All this inconvenience for what appear to be theoretical benefits at best. And the most annoying aspect of this is---there seems to be no way we can stop them.
Any interest in a recall or lawsuit against the present members?
A ban on plastic bags?
Wow -- this is a very dumb idea! Do you know what the outcome will be? Many Palo Alto residents will drive to Mountain View (or elsewhere) to purchase their groceries. In other words, many residents will bring plastic bags into the community from elsewhere. As is, the groceries in this town are more expensive than the region (let alone the rest of the nation) -- enough so to warrant traveling a little further for bargains.
Many shoppers purchase groceries on "payday." They fill a shopping cart with most of the items that they will need for a couple of weeks. A single, reusable bag just doesn't cut it for most shoppers. In addition, this actually affects lower incomes far more than other households. Are we to force everyone to purchase reusable bags or pay more for already expensive groceries in order to ease the conscience of a few?
Why can't there be an investigation into all possible solutions? Has anyone investigated the difference this would actually make...or how an increase in paper would affect the environment? Along the East Coast, I've noticed recycle stations in front of grocery stores...and throughout the community. Plastic bags would be much less of a problem if such stations were available in areas where people frequently gather. The environment would be helped too.
Please forgive my intrusion. My husband and I recently moved into the area. We always expected this place to operate much further to the left than the rest of the world, yet we am amazed at how soem good citizens believe that increased spending and/or government oversight is the noble solution to every problem! If we truly want "change," then why not begin with laying the axe to the root of the problems? Why do we have to create government regulations for every single act of good intent?
Mark my words: If you prohibit local stores from giving plastic bags, Palo Alto will simply have a problem with plastic bags that come from elsewhere. I believe that this situation, like many others, could use a good hard dose of real research. There are alternatives to even more regulatory oversight.
Why stop with plastic bags?
Why not extend it to something else that affects the environment? We can prohibit credit cards (plastic), notebooks, cars, gasoline, televisions (plastic, glass, metal and silicon), and even computers.
Or maybe I should have asked, "Where will it stop?"
Mark Twain said it well: "If you give some bureaucrats an inch, they will tax a thousand miles."
I am really mystified at the people who expect plastic bags to disappear and think the world as we know it will end.
I have a big drawer full of clean plastic bags that accumulate from vegetables bought at the market, bread bags, bags from Target, the Hardware store, almost every store uses them; I have a couple of sturdy carry-bags in the car that I have accumulated over the years that I now use at the grocery store.
Have you been tossing out good clean bags all these years? Please re-think your wasteful behavior.
Do these people have anything better to do? I can't believe that they are spending time arguing about whether or not we should be able to take our groceries home in a plastic bag!!!
Like others have said, we use those bags for a variety of purposes. We take things to school, to work, and use them for storage. Once we are finished, we recycle them. I have even read that plastic is much easier to recycle than paper.
Can't the City Council discuss actually SAVING local citizens a little money? Can't they discuss actually staying out of our business (or businesses)? It would be great to have a good discussion about lowering our taxes!
One more thing: Don't we already have the right to say "no" to plastic bags if we so wish?
Why should the government act like our parents or conscience? Don't they trust us to know what is best for us in regard to plastic bags? The solution is to recycle the bags that we receive, not to restrict them completely.
This is unbelievable! It almost makes me believe that environmentalism is becoming a religion and its followers are fanatics. Trust me: I know how to take care of myself and my family without the government trying to make all of my decisions for me.
As for research, many of you seem to not be aware of the huge problem of plastic bags in our waterways and oceans...and the huge number of marine animals dying for entanglement and mistaking bags for food. Of course we will not eliminate plastic bags completely, but we can start taking steps to cut down on their use, which in turn cuts down on pollution. Yes, I pack a wet bathing suit in plastic, but I am willing to BUY those bags for those purposes and reuse other bags. By using a fabric grocery bag (wow, maybe I need more than one) I am doing my part to protect the environment and perhaps save the life of an animal. That is worth the dollar I spend on a fabric bag. Are we so sort sighted that our own convenience is more important than the health of our earth?
...or we could think that many of us are responsible enough to recycle our grocery bags (rather than have a big brother government force everyone into submission because of those who don't recycle).
Since when did the local government become the environmental gestapo?
Should we take away the rights of everyone simply because some people just don't care about the environment?
I think that a better solution is education, and like someone else said, more visible recycle bins. Plastic could be recycled very easily.
It is already enormously expensive to live in this community. Do we want to keep enlarging government until we need to build a Kremlin to house the KGB? I don't mind inconvenience, but I don't think that it ever stops for some people.
Of course, we could always "redistribute the wealth" by forcing the rich environmentalists in this community to pay for all of the paper and permanent bags needed by the rest of us. ;-)
This is a reflection of our City Council. Except for Yoriko, after the last election, eight of our City Council are men. Men don't do the grocery shopping in most families.
This ban against plastic bags discriminates against women, and effectively tells us what and how we should do the grocery shopping for our families. I don't believe eight men should be telling the women of Palo Alto how to do their grocery shopping.
Next they'll be banning condoms because they're made of plastic.
Vicki, I am really not aware of that problem around Palo Alto. Can you provide any data?
I did look into data about plastic washed up on beaches, in marine animal gullets, and the so-called "giant trash heap" in the Pacific. While there is plastic, plenty of it, plastic shopping bags turn out to be a tiny portion of it, almost not measurable. No surprise, look in your home or grocery bag - almost all food and many other goods are packaged in clear plastic - the grocery bag itself is a tiny fraction of the volume.
So we really don't impact anything positively with this proposed regulation. It appears to just a "feel good" that probably has a net negative impact, given the cost and resource use of paper bags. The Council should focus on real problems near at home - boring perhaps, but it is their job.
If my Earth Science textbook is correct, a plastic bag from a store like Wal-Mart of Safeway is so stretched that there is more plastic in a soda cap than in the plastic grocery bag.
I did a quick Google search about plastic bags, and I found the PDF link below from American Chemistry Society. It talks about the myths regarding plastic bags versus permanent or paper bags). I urge the City Council to read it, find real research, or at least, do a Google search before making such a lasting decision that affects so many people.
It kindof stinks that some leaders of our city are willing to make a fast decision based on anything less than truth. Do we even know where our plastic bags end up? My family recycles, so they likely end up in, well, other plastic products. It is just a thought, but what if we were to encourage more recycling rather than adding more rules to a police state?
Use reusable bags and problem solved.
Don't believe comments on this page for people trying to save plastic bags. They all probably work for the plastic industry making the comments.
Sure I have a web site with information about plastic bag pollution, and it's pretty sad. Web Link
Yep, recycling is a good thing to do...too bad more people won't do it. That's when putting a ban in place comes in (I wonder if you drive while talking on your cell phone too?). It certainly has taken me months to 'train' myself to bring my fabric bags to the store. And yes, I am a woman doing the grocery shopping. Discriminated against? Hardly. Thank goodness we have progressive grocery stores that nationally have given up plastic bags. Like I said- it's not perfect- but it's a start. (Condoms next? Probably not, why get silly about this?). We don't need to redistribute the wealth- we need to redistribute the responsibility.
Guess I should have known, the minute I left the room the rowdies took over.
We use plastic bags because they are convenient, just as councilors have reserved parking slots for their convenience. If those responsible for accommodating our needs are not up to the job, I suggest political seppuku. If they really want to eliminate one use product, I suggest they revert to reuse of sanitary napkins [all plumbers would roger this] and, as in the Scottish military, condoms. I understand the Romans used a sponge on a stick in lieu of toilet paper, but that might be overdoing the reuse ethic.
Vicki, thank you for that site. Through it, I found the National Marine Debris Monitoring program, which is run by NOAH, which after some hunting you can find specific debris surveys, beach by beach.
About 11% of the debris items picked up at Pescadero Beach (nearest to Palo Alto) are plastic bags. (Web Link) Of course, this includes bags of all types, not just shopping bags - my guess, just based on number of bags out there, that far more are individuals food packaging (virtually every snack product is wrapped in plastic - chips, candy, nuts, etc.). Note also that there were more straws (15% of items), bottles (25%), and cans (20%) than bags, and nearly as many balloons (9%). Note that 269 bags were collected over 11 years, or 24/year - I'm not sure how the sampling is done, but the number does not strike me as that big.
The problem is not being against the bags - that's fine, use re-usable bags and nag others to do so. The problem is using the heavy hand of regulation, with incumbent time, effort, cost, and impact, to attack an issue that is simply not that important in any rational scheme of things. It is form without substance (unless we're planning to get going on food packaging regs and banning straws and balloons.) Is this really what we want the City Council and city staff spending their time on? I would rather they focused on the boring, everyday work of managing costs and making sure that things actually get done.
Here is slightly more detailed data, in a report on Beach Debris studies from the Ocean Conservancy (Web Link).
On p 9, table 3 is a much more detailed analysis of 2002-04 beach debris data covering the entire west coast. It breaks out plastic bags from food wrappers/containers - the wrappers show up 3.5x more than the bags (all types - includes garbage bags, ziplocks, etc.). Bags occurs less than caps and lids, cups, forks and spoons (together), or straws; about the same as glass bottles; and about twice as often as cigar tips and 3x as much as clothing and shoes.
A litter problem - sure. Something we should ban for its impact on the environment? Let's just get back to work.
This is more like it. For a family to go to the beach for a day, a number of plastic bags of various types will be taken. If we make our own sandwiches, ziplock bags are probably being used. If we make hotdogs or burgers, the bread will be in bags. If we take juice boxes or stop for sodas on the way, straws will be in them. We may take plastic grocery bags for our sand toys or for putting our towels in or wet swimwear when we come back. And the problem with these bags is that you let go of them and the wind gets them and they are gone. No matter how careful a family may be at the beach, some of these bags will fly away in the wind and it is impossible to get them back, sometimes even if you put other articles on top of them.
So for a conscious effort to prevent plastic debris on the beaches we should be banning the use of people taking plastic bags to the beach. This would involve putting sandwiches into tupperware containers taking the burger/hot dog bags out of the plastic beforehand and use plastic lined beach bags for towels.
I can't see every family doing this. As a result, there will continually be plastic bags left at beaches because the wind will always win.
I am perplexed! Plastic bags that aren't the problem: It is the misuse of plastic bags (particularly in disposal) that is the problem! So is the solution a permanent BAN on plastic bags by some Machiavellian type of decision by a BIG BROTHER city council?
Or is the answer in teaching individuals how to recycle?
Logic, thank you for the link that you provided from the ACS. I just can't understand how a group of city leaders can speak for the rest of us (what happened to democracy?) and base their decision on virtually no solution-based research!
Vicki, I understand that there is a problem with plastic bags in the ocean. But there is a problem with global warming too. Do we completely ban all automobiles entirely -- or find a workable solution to curtail the end? Remember, the end does NOT always justify the means.
This whole idea reminds me of forcing a chastity belt on a teenager. A better solution is to educate and then trust that the population is intelligent and responsible to handle the situation for themselves, our community and our planet. But do we really need a gestapo government of the few making what THEY think is the best decision for the many? Why not put it up to a vote?
From all that I have read, recycling is a better solution. It prevents us from using paper...which would be yet another problem in the future if plastic bags are banned.
If that is the case, then why not ban people from going to the beaches altogether?
It seems like anything can pollute the water and sand. Fishing hooks can harm fish, so outlaw fishing. Bread bags can cause the same damage as plastic grocery bags, so outlaw that. Our shoes will carry off sand from the coastline, so let's ban those! Sun lotion is made of oil that will get into the water, so let's ban that too. When will it stop?
Do we really need a city government that thinks itself so wise as to become more than just the thought police on this issue? How many animals have died from our Palo Alto plastic grocery bags in the past year? Decade? Century? Are there ANY studies performed by anyone OTHER THAN biased environmental groups that point to credible solutions?
I guess that if this silly law passes, I will just take my business to somewhere other than Palo Alto. In this highly educated town, it is amazing that the City Council thinks that they need to nanny all of us "ignorant children" because they don't think that we are intelligent enough to figure out how to recycle a plastic bag! This whole idea is almost fodder for late night comedians!
I am beginning to believe all of those caricatures that paint environmentalists as wild extremists who will not be happy until we all live in mud huts as we worship this earth. I love the Earth. I hope to keep it safe for my children. I just don't think that it is necessary to force others to submit to an idea about plastic bags that is unrealistic in today's world. It isn't even an "inconvenient truth." The truth is that plastic can easily be recycled.
Can't we consider other possible solutions before making such a lasting and expensive decision? Why not simply give a ticket to anyone who litters or brings plastic grocery bags to the beach? I seriously doubt that this decision will have ANY impact on the environment. It will simply drive away customers from this town and bring plastic bags from other towns.
BTW, regarding a conspiracy theory: I do not work for either the plastic or grocery industry.
I do not like wet newspapers. So if a ban on plastic bags over newspapers in the rainy season does come to pass, I'll just cancel the papers. I can read most of it on line. Oh the joy of not having six pounds of ads on Thursday for stuff I don't want and couldn't afford anyway Our carrier can't aim and the morning paper often goes into a puddle from the sprinklers. (And don't tell me to fix the driveway to get rid of the puddle.$$$) They are considering no plastic bags in the produce department??? !! I can't imagine buying grapes or tomatoes and putting them in the cart. What a floor mess. Do these councilMEN ever grocery shop? This Palo Alto nanny in-your-life council is getting ridiculous.. They can't even get the lousy streets fixed. IF Menlo Park and Mountain View have any sense, they won't go along with this foolishness - and then rake in the money from fleeing Palo Altans.
And in the meantime, there has been another daytime mugging.
Since the entire council seems in favor of the ban, the only answer is
RECALL these clowns.
Hard to believe the PA leadership is focusing on this plastic bag issue when there is the worst crime wave to ever hit this city. Give me a break, there has been murders, kidnappings, rapes, burglaries, robberies, and others.
I'm a business owner, and a such I strongly agree with this. I pay for all kraft (natural) paper bags, five times the price of a plastic bag. I do not charge the customer for the bag because doing so would not be seen well in the eyes of the customer, since no one else does.
If the goverment passes this, it puts everyone on an equal playing field, and everyone has to pay the same cost of doing business. The buyers of plastic are pocketing the savings and passing the cost to the environment. In the long term, everyone pays the price for using plastic bags.
I strongly disagree with those who believe that they should be able to chose one way or another. Rational people will always choose the cheaper option when they are not the ones incurring the cost to the environment.
Carla, not sure if that is tongue in cheek, but assuming it is not...
Of course you want the regulation. That is the dirty joke of the Palo Alto bag-ban concept - it is a gift to businesses, who, courtesy of the city, will not have to, or perhaps CANNOT, give free bags to consumers anymore. Nice!
Of course, if we really want to impact the environment with our shopping habits, let's not outlaw free bags - let's outlaw free parking! That should cut down on trips to the store and really help with carbon emmissions. Don't we want to discourage unnecessary trips? No free parking in Palo Alto, it's for the earth! - anyone ready to sign up? Hmm, didn't think so.
The comment about plastics and a day at the beach miss the point. Yes, use reusable containers if you want to OR use ziploc bags but bring them home, wash them out and reuse them! Once done, dispose of them properly. This is not rocket science.
NYC proposed a six cents plastic bag fee today, which will be shared with the merchants as an incentive for participation. Giving people options (pay or bring your own) is better than an outright ban, especially if the monies collected are directed to environmental causes. More thinking, less reacting, more thinking, less name calling....
Actually, you miss my point about a day at the beach. I have young kids and do take them to the beach for a day. I have in the past used many plastic bags and do try to take them home. But, it is incredibly difficult to make sure that young kids don't allow the plastic bigs to fly in the wind. On many occasions I have left my young kids sitting on a blanket and run down the beach to save a bag, sometimes managing to catch it or sometimes it just blows into the waves and is gone.
It doesn't matter how careful I am, the wind is too strong. I am really conscious about my bags but have stopped taking them to the beach because I don't want to have to chase a bag while I take my eyes off the kids. Now I put everything into tupperwares because they do not blow away. The kids are learning about how easy trash flies off, but it is much easier when you don't have any trash to take home.
Before there were paper or plastic bags, people used reusable bags. If everyone did better reducing the paper and plastic, local government would have no basis. We don't have to be perfect, just better. PW did a survey earlier in the year that showed less than 10% of Palo Altans used reusable bags and that in PA alone, over 2 million bags were distributed each year. Do we need more than 2 million to do the job?
For those that think recycling is not convenient- Safeway has had plastic bag recycling in front of their store since the early 90's and as of 2 1/2 years ago all large pharmacy chains and grocery stores throughout CA have been required to have plastic bag recycling for store customers (all plastic bags, not just grocery or pharmacy bags) due to a law passed by the State. Problem is that people are not recycling them. Billions of plastic bags are created, but less than 5% are recycled, according to the waste department that tracks recycling for the state.
At the Council session, PW staff showed photos of PA creeks and the litter that flows directly into SF Bay. He also showed a County study conducted that showed creek litter due to plastics. He mentioned that two of the PA creeks were going to be listed on some official list as "impaired" and enforcement action taken. Also, PA gets fined if too much litter goes into the Bay from PA creeks.
Paying for someone to clean up our creeks costs money so it is important for everyone to make sure we don't have to spend our tax dollars this way.
Use a reusable bag as much as you can so the fanatics don't have any basis for action.
You can buy reusable bags for 99 cents at the grocery or pharmacy and they last for years. If you buy 4 bags, that $4 well spent to avoid the fanatics and a better use of your money.
Is the problem with bags at the beach. Then how about banning plastic bags at the beach?
It is ridiculous of a few fanatics trying to force their obsession on those of us who are outstanding citizens. Most of us are smart enough to know how to recycle effectively. Why punish us for the wrongs of those who don't?
A few signs at the beach that say NO PLASTIC BAGS would be much less expensive than charging money for plastic or paper.
Let's face it, our Council looks for an excuse to do restrictive environmental regs, not a reason. Pictures of bags in creeks? Let's ban them! Will it have real impact? Is there an easier way? Who cares - we can tell our friends about we are "leaders."
Meanwhile, we just spend money while the city deteriorates. Don't worry though, we can always pass a bond later.
What about those of us who buy an entire shopping cart of groceries at one time? Are we required to purchase 20 bags and drag those with us each time?
I am a young man, and I can't remember life without grocery bags (plastic or paper). As an chemical engineer, I am certain that plastic is much more easily recycled than some would imply.
If there are bags at the beach, then ban them from the beach (and not Safeway). Charge those who illegally use them at the beach with a ticket. But don't punish us for some misconceptions.
I was given a reusable bag at a trade show recently and it works great! I googled them and found them at www.thebestbag.org and trying to buy some.
David L., do you have 20-25 of them for use when you go shopping? That is how many you will have to drag with you if you are like most middle class Americans. We shop once or twice a month (on payday).
Still, this is the dumbest idea ever. We punish everyone simply because a few people bring plastic bags to the beach or fail to recycle?
A "nanny" state is correct! It makes me almost want to vote Republican! Doesn't the government have too much power anyway? We are taxed through the roof around here, and we pay more for goods and services than neary any other place in the nation. Now, our "nanny" city council wants to force all of us to follow another expensive rule.
I don't know where I will be getting my groceries, but it won't be in Palo Alto. I don't know who will be getting my vote next time, but it won't be these guys.
Some of you are not paying attention to the statistics that Mary gave. Yes, recycling is good, but it's NOT happening. Now I see that your problem is not with plastic bag pollution and the harm they reek on the environment and marine life, it is with the Ban. Because everyone is smart and responsible enough to recycle or choose an alturnative without "big brother' telling them so. Is that right? Well, I'm not buying it. There was a time when seat belts and car seats were not required, when people could smoke in your face, and gosh, didn't even need to pick up dog poop in the park. If you are getting my point- intervention is sometimes warranted when it is for the good of our health and welfare. And a dirty, polluted planet to pass on to my children counts in my book. N0, I don't think this will save the world! But one more time- it is a start. It is one place we can make a difference...change a bad habit. Goodness knows- there are thousands of changes we can make- but I am starting here and I will be proud to live in a community that does the same.
Good. Then you can say "no" when they ask you "paper or plastic."
As for me, I want my plastic. I will recycle (I promise), but I don't need a nanny to tell me "no."
Vicki, I think your heart is in the right place, but use your head. We can ban things, but as environmental hazards go, this one is trivial - look at the beach debris stats. Should we get ban balloons? They are about as prevalent in beach trash surveys as plastic bags. How about cigarettes - should they be outlawed? They are a huge form of litter. Should we 10x the deposit on bottles and cans - they are big sources of trash. Outlaw SUVs? We've seized on something almost irrelevant in the scheme of things just because it seems easy to those who like banning things.
The list of things we could legislate is very large - but we don't because people want choices. If there is a cost associated with bag pollution, we can put deposits on them, as we do with bottles and cans. That's fine - a penny? a nickel? I can live with that. But the city legislating what kind of bags a store offer consumers - there must be something better for us to spend time on.
Just heard on Channel 2 news this evening that the whole of Santa Clara County is proposing this ban, or charging for both paper and plastic, plus the biodegradable type.
It is people like this that give environmentalists a bad name. I believe in saving the environment and doing what we can to stop global warming.
This is just fanaticism that is not rooted in real fact. We can solve this problem by recycling and not by creating more and more laws that hurt those of us who are good stewards of this planet. Ban them but from the beach!
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