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Palo Alto eyes expanding plastic-bag ban

Original post made on Nov 13, 2009

Palo Alto's crusade against non-reusable bags is expected to spread far and wide next year, when the city plans to expand its ban on plastic bags and possibly start charging a fee for paper bags.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 13, 2009, 9:53 AM

Comments (33)

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Posted by Bag Re-User
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2009 at 10:51 am

I object to the term "non-reusable bags". I have ALWAYS re-used nearly every one (more than 90%) I bring home. I will now have to buy new bags for those uses. So, to some extent, this ban will be self-defeating.

I agree with the statement that the ban on (or charge for) paper bags will make Palo Alto store less competitive. I am already beginning to buy groceries more frequently in Menlo Park and Mountain View. To make any sense, these bans (which I am not totally against) should be regional, not local. Let's get agreements with the neighboring towns and all march together into this brave new world.

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2009 at 10:57 am

What will we poor dog owners do when we can't find plastic bags anymore?

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2009 at 11:03 am

Palo Alto residents are NOT strewing plastic sacks all over Highways 101 and 280. The bags are coming from uncovered trash trucks and garbage trucks. Palo Alto is becoming a big- brother 'nanny state'. Just wait until the city puts in 'Smart Meters'. (See today's San Jose Mercury News.") Then we really have 'trouble in River City". The new utility billing is a precursor to putting those in and really control our lives. Enough already.

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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2009 at 11:50 am

Little did we know that we elected Nero and his fiddle to Palo Alto leadership.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2009 at 12:06 pm

3 Billion bags have been imported for sale or give aways...yes with a "B". They are now the new disposable bag....great environmentalists have taken us down another rabbit hole...why arent we just recycling the bags we have?

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Posted by Short wave
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2009 at 12:30 pm

>>> What will we poor dog owners do when we can't find plastic bags anymore?

The correct answer is nothing. They will ignore the deposits of their animal.

This red herring issue is more eco religion being forced upon all of us.

Wake up people, the state is broke the city is in waves of red ink and all that matters is this?

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Posted by Irrational
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2009 at 12:44 pm

So the bags we take home with our groceries are banned which means I have no suitable bags to line my garbage container. So, guess what, I will simply go out and buy plastic bags to put my garbage in!!! They're very cheap at Costco!!!!

If they are going to charge me for paper bags that's even more incentive to buy cheap plastic bags from Costco.

This is one of the most stupid irrational ideas this City has ever had. If you want to ban plastic bags, ban the sale of plastic bags.

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Posted by Another-Bogus-Palo-Alto-Plan
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 13, 2009 at 12:57 pm

This whole thing is NUTS!! There isn't one sane person at 250 Hamilton Avenue.

It's not at all clear what legal authority the City has to ban the plastic bags, and sadly .. the local papers don't seem to want to investigate this lunacy in any depth.

And taxing the use of paper bags seems to be pretty much the work of bureaucrats trying to put businesses out of business by making it hard for customers to do business there.

But there is a simple solution--buy in stores outside of Palo Alto!

Most people work outside of Palo Alto, so they could shop in the town where they work, or somewhere that is business-friendly .. like next door Mountain View.

It's only a matter of time before retail itself is banned in Palo Alto.

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Posted by McGrude
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm

So... how many of us shop at Safeway in Menlo Park? They still have plastic bags. Charging for paper bags at stores in Palo Alto will further motivate the population to shop outside the city. *shrug*

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Posted by Nayeli Puentes
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm

This is utterly ridiculous! There is simply NO SCIENCE upon which to validate the "concerns" of advocates of big, nanny-state local government!

According to the American Chemical Society, studies have confirmed that these plastic bags are completely recyclable. There is very little oil used in the manufacture of these bags, but they can be REUSED over and over again as both bags and the recyclable material used to manufacture future bags.

If it hurts anyone, it is the poor and middle class within the city. High taxes, high property values, high grocery prices and high gas prices are not enough for a nanny government. Rather, they prefer to continue their fleecing of the poor and middle class by forcing them to purchase reusable bags. The poor and middle class typically purchase their groceries once or twice each month (in accordance with their paychecks and in order to conserve gasoline). The local nanny state is effectively forcing these citizens to purchase the dozens of bags needed to haul their groceries home.

California's economic liberalism is far too expensive. There is just too little "return" shown by the cost to taxpayers. This silly plastic bag ban is NOT based on anything more than rumor. If there was a problem with plastic bags going into landfills (BTW, the oil used to create those bags is also taken OUT of the Earth), then why not set up recycle bins for those bags at the grocery stores?

Our family reuses those bags over and over again. They serve many purposes in the home. Contrary to the accusation that they are flooding our beaches and waterways, most of these bags are put to good use. In addition, we also recycle those that we do not use.

Unfortunately, the radical environmentalists who care little for scientific evidence will continue to punish the rest of us for their lack of insight. As a result, our family -- and many families like us -- will be taking our money elsewhere.

I really feel sorry for all of these individuals who continually vote into office men and women who "can't see the forest for the trees." California will be $40 Billion in debt by next summer. Oddly enough, California ranks at the top of per capita taxes, fees, and other fiscal revenues. Where does all of the money go? Sadly, those in power continue to want to spend more! Is it any wonder that people are moving out of our state by the millions?

California is projected to actually lose at least one electoral vote in the next election (and at least one Congressional district). It seems that people are moving to states that have non-inflated property values, no state income tax, low sales taxes but better schools, roads, economic development and comparable state services. I don't know about you, but Texas is beginning to sound awfully good during these terrible economic times. Worse: California doesn't seem to be on any sort of road to recovery either.

Instead of banning plastic bags, why can't we simply ban the radical spendthrift politicians who are driving out the decent people from our state?

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Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 13, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I use plastic bags for trash and to clean out the cat box. Now I have to buy bags for this? I am all for reducing footprint, but this issue is too fishy. I agree, I don't want people leaving dog crap lying around because they don't have bags to pick up terds with.

Charging 20 cents for a bag for my purchase? Am I being nickel and dimed?

Something is wrong with Palo Alto.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Wouldn't it be nice to see a headline of how our City was doing something to bring more useful retail to Palo Alto and how to get our residents to shop Palo Alto rather than more headlines showing that the City wants to stop us?

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Posted by earthbabe
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 13, 2009 at 2:50 pm

why investigate the facts when you can just create headlines. banning bags is crazy! how about bread bags, torillo bags, pizza wrap, frozen food bags - plastic jars have all but replaced glass, etc, etc, etc. Look in your plastic grocery bag - what isn't plasic? Walk down the aisle of Trader Joes or Whole Foods - it is all plastic! Good grief get a life

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Posted by GC
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 13, 2009 at 3:38 pm

My reusable bag is getting old. Can I throw then in the trash?

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Posted by I love MV
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Its nice living so close to The Democratic Republic of Mountain View where I can make the decision for myself which type of bag I'd like. If I had to pay a fee to use a bag at the Midtown safeway, I'd probably avoid shopping there.

I can sort of understand banning plastic bags if they are clogging up the creeks and hurting fish. But why charge a fee for paper? We are charged a fee for paper bags already - its called the operating costs of the grocery store.

When I buy granola bars for the kids, they come in a box. Maybe they should charge for that too. They should be tied in a sustainably grown, organic hemp string, right?

What about the plastic bags for produce? We must stop that outrage as well.

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Posted by sw
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

This plastic bag ban is dumb lunacy.

A better option is to give merchants options such as biodegradable plastics which are corn or starch based alternatives. These are compostable and are good for the environment.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm

we are now off to do some weekend shopping: my spouse - hair cut, Menlo Park: groceries - TJ's and Safeway: a latte - Starbucks on El Camino, and the cheapest fish - Cook's Seafood. And the City Manager is hiring ANOTHER 7th floor 'manager' for about $200K plus benefits???? Will the new city council have the GUTS to stop this insanity??? Sadly, I don't think so. But there is always the option - RECALL.

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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2009 at 8:27 pm

It won't bother me. I am used to taking my clothes bags and other reusable bags when I go shopping now, and not just to grocery stores. So, no big deals, they can go ahead.

Oh, and by the way Safeway plastic bags used to be so breakable and full of holes after the shopping trip that they were worthless as garbage container liners...

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Posted by Tired of nanny-state
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2009 at 11:21 pm

The entire plastic bag ban is absurd and unrealistic; our family has always found dozens of uses for plastic grocery bags - now we just shop in Mountain View and Menlo Park; the idea of charging for paper bags is equally idiotic. We are all really tired of this nonsense in Palo Alto, which will definitely make many people shop elsewhere.

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Posted by Viva China !!
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 14, 2009 at 5:42 am

Now we will buy perm-bags from China. This is another way to send more money to China. Their economy is already growing at the rate of 8% in these bad times.

Long live China !

Palo Alto Idiots!! I think as a country we have lost the big picture view of the economy. It will haunt us in this decade.

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Posted by Jean
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 14, 2009 at 10:02 am

Yay! I am very happy that Palo Alto is considering expanding the ban! I hope it succeeds. I wish it had happened long ago.

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Posted by Art
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm

What are small businesses like Subway supposed to put sandwiches for takeout in? Most people don't carry reuseable bags to buy small items at small businesses. Wouldn't it be more sensible to enforce littering laws for those people who just let their plastic bags loose? When the dog droppings law was strickly enfored, the dog messes went away. Before the dog droppings law was enforced, I used to have to hose down the city-owned space between the sidewalk and the street almost every day. Enforcing the littering law will stop plastic bags from getting in our waterways.
Let's do something to help small business not make it tougher on them!

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Posted by Sarah
a resident of University South
on Nov 14, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Wow, it's amazing that people throughout history got along without the use of plastics bags -- we now get one for each purchase no matter how small -- a pack of gum or prescription bottle, a soda, a sandwich. Are you REALLY going to get in your car, drive a few extra miles just to shop in a town that offers you a plastic bag? Even if you re-use your bags, did you think of the carbon footprint of that bag? Who made it? Where was it made? How did it get to the store? Where will it go after you're finished with it? Of the wood that was used to make the paper bag? What a bunch of entitled, self-centered, people. How much inconvenience is it really to have a re-usable bag in your purse or car? It's just a matter of habit. The world is changing, get over it and help be part of the solution.

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Posted by poo
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 15, 2009 at 7:42 am

i guess il just have to make room in my back pocket for my purchases

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Posted by Nayeli Puentes
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Hi Sarah,

I'm not sure you understand the situation. Many of us make more purchases than can fit within a few reusable bags that we carry around in our vehicles. How many groceries will fit in a bag? When I go shopping, I purchase nearly a month's worth of food during each paycheck. While the rest of us poorer citizens might be looked down upon by smug "environmental" elitists, we must continue to count our money and manage our time. Are we expected to now do without...or to make multiple trips to the grocery store? Wow -- that is quite a bit of time, gasoline and fumes.

Sadly, we have a group of local "leaders" who desperately want to appear "vogue" as they continue to create silly, restrictive environmental laws based upon popular rumors and conjecture. Plastic bags are completely recyclable. Where is the evidence that displays that Palo Alto's plastic bags are winding up in the bay? Should local leaders have the power to create such restrictions in spite of local citizens and businesses -- just to please environmental elitists?

I agree with others: This attempt REEKS of a "nanny state." What's next? Will our leaders campaign against driving cars simply because science has proven that the internal combustion engine might be harmful to the environment? Will you ban antique cars because they emit more emissions than a Prius? Where is the limits to which a local government can pass expensive laws of which the brunt is born of the poor and middle class?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2009 at 7:53 pm

What you seem to forget, Nayeli, is that paper bags are reusable also. You can easily take your 12 or 20 paper bags from each shopping trip and store them until the next time you go to the store. You will still get the discount if you take paper bags instead of cloth bags.

Of course I don't agree with the ban because I know that plastic bags are useful, but it makes sense for us all to be a little more sensible.

I mean, do we really like drinking coffee out of paper or styrofoam cups or would we prefer a mug or china cup? Do we really like eating off paper plates with plastic forks, or do we prefer proper plates and silverware? Our society is becoming disposable everything and I for one would like to be able to enjoy some of the older, traditional methods of doing things. 50 years ago it was the norm to take shopping bags to buy groceries, it can become the norm again. Yes, of course there will be times when we forget or it is inconvenient, and then we should be able to ask for free bags. But forcing us to conform to nannying has to be wrong. I doubt if the PA creeks have any less plastic bags in them now than they did this time last year.

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Posted by Nayeli Puentes
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Hi Resident...

I understand what you're saying. However, have you ever carried a perishable item in a paper bag (like milk...or a frozen product)? The bags get wet...and soggy...and are difficult-to-impossible to reuse. Plastic bags are perfect for perishables.

Like others have pointed out, the plastic bags are completely recyclable...and are often put to good use before they are recycled. My family uses them as trashbags...and even containers to hold other recyclables until we take them all in to be recycled (and try to recoup some of that ridiculously imaginary CRV income from the State). Of course, we also use them as, well, bags. In addition, these bags use very little oil (which is literally taken out of the ground) and can be melted down and used for other products.

Regardless of the science (or lack thereof) behind this ban, the greater question is whether or not a city has the right to make up such a law to begin with.

These laws unfairly targets a certain segment of the population. This proposed "tax" of 20-25 cents per paper bag might not seem like a lot to a family earning a six figure household income. However, it is quite a bit for a family that hardly has anything left after paying the bills. I usually go shopping each paycheck...and return with 15 bags of groceries. I don't lug around 15 reusable bags in my car.

If certain elected leaders are allowed to make such a decision for the rest of us...then where will it stop? Will the environmental police start checking our trash to see whether or not we are composting? Will the city create their own standards for automotive exhaust?

I'm slowly beginning to believe the notion that too much government can actually be a very BAD thing. This is especially true when it is placed in the wrong hands. An old Spanish proverb translates: "Authority makes some people grow...and others just swell."

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Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2009 at 11:42 pm

"Staff expects to return to the City Council in nine months with its recommendations...."

Who are these "staff" that have all this time to spy on stores to see how many are using reusable bags? In the middle of a terrible budget crunch we still have "staff" with time available to work on elaborate reports on what? Absolutely nothing productive.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2009 at 8:40 am


I actually agree with practically all you say. I just feel that with all this talk of reusable bags, it is worth reminding all shoppers that any bag, from a plastic Safeway bag from Menlo Park, to a posh Nordstrom's bag or a paper bag from Safeway, can all be used for taking into stores to bag groceries. I know that each individual bag probably can only be used a few times, and that if a bag gets wet or dirty they can't be reused even the first time, but they can be folded back along the seams with care.

All bags are reusable, even plastic produce bags and bread bags which are great for dog walking or messy kitchen garbage e.g. chicken bones. We do not have to buy the advertising cloth bags. In fact, I would like to see us all putting our Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, WalMart, Target, etc. bags and giving them to the baggers to bag our groceries.

If we know which day the City officials are going to Midtown Safeway, I suggest we all take our free reusable paper and plastic bags to show the City just what we can do.

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Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I don't think the dog poop bags are drying up. I have never seen a dog owner using a Nordstrom or Safeway bag to pick up the droppings (bless them all who do it.) Those people are using smaller bags—produce bags and newspaper wrappers.

But people are already gearing up collections of reusable bags. Just two or three weeks ago, someone pinched one of my canvas bags right out of my buggy at Piazza—the good, oversized canvas bag from Trader Joe's!

People are trying to do the right thing and bring their own bag, or someone's bag.

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Posted by Beth
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 16, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Palo Alto clearly doesn't actually want business. I'll keep shopping in Menlo Park and Mountain View, thanks much. I like the Farmer's Markets, but if the price of a bag is added, forget it.

Like others here, I re-use every plastic bag that I do bring home. If we didn't have them for free, my husband and I would buy them.

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Posted by Mike Licht
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm

On the negative side, there is the social disruption of shopping bag antagonism and one-upmanship.


Web Link

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Posted by Jim
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Excellent. I hope the state bans them statewide.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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