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Menlo Park bans plastic bags at checkout

Original post made on Jan 23, 2013

Earth Day (April 22) will see the end of single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter in Menlo Park. The City Council voted 5-0 to join the county in enacting a new ordinance banning the use of plastic bags by retailers, but made a few modifications to the law.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 4:27 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by Envionmentalism-Run-Amok!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Another meaningless gesture by people who have more time on their hands than common sense. This banning is probably more of a warning to "retail" that we don't want you in our town, and we'll be coming after you, if you don't wise up and move on!

Posted by Ben callen
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 23, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Ridiculous, ban bottle water and everything packaged in plastic as well. What is china doin while we ban plastic shopping bags? Want to save the environment, takes a lot more then plastic bags.

Posted by Ed
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I don't have much patience for people whose first line of "argument" is to call people idiots. Try going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to view their excellent display on the impact plastic bags have on the oceans. When I was a kid I recall people calling the change to lead free gas stupid. Now it is just part of life and not a big deal. This will likely be much the same.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

Every single city that does this does it in the same dishonest way. This is not about the earth. It is about securing a credit for reducing by 40% waste going into storm drains. Waste going into storm drains is not reduced: the plastic ban allows unelected functionaries to say it is reduced. That's why every city votes for it, in order by this fiction to avoid a $500 a day fine.
People might ask themselves why these unelected individuals have such sway over their lives and why the people they elect are not honest with them.
In a few years, waste going into storm drains will have to be reduced by 100%: what will you be asked to do then?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2013 at 8:48 am

I am getting so tired of this.

It is not the majority of us who shop that allow our bags to get into the Bay or anywhere else. We use our bags responsibly.

Now I have often seen garbage trucks on the highway sadly losing their load of plastic bags. I suspect these are the bags that are doing the most damage!

There are many other sources of plastic bags - most bread I buy is double wrapped. Perhaps looking into how many unnecessary plastic wrappers are on the various goods we buy would be a much more productive way to reduce plastic waste.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 8:54 am

yes, Resident, when I considered all the sources of plastic, I thought WHY this one type? The storm drain issue was the answer.

Posted by Amy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 24, 2013 at 10:28 am

I agree with Ed. It is difficult to change our habits but once new habits take hold, they are no big deal. If you've never thought about where all that plastic goes, now is the time to do so. The argument that there are greater polluters? Yes. But we have to start somewhere. Be part of the solution. If you can think of how to stop the larger polluters, go for it.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2013 at 10:41 am

No, I think you have me wrong.

I don't mind taking my own bags into stores - I have changed my habits. I also use my pockets and holdall for small purchases. However, I have lots of problems with these type of bans.

I rarely take bags when asked if I want one (some do ask). I bought shoes recently and carried the box from the store to my car - no big deal and I use the box for a charity that collects them. However, if it is raining, I may like to put my new purchase in a plastic bag rather than get wet. If I am on a bicycle and I impulse buy one purchase in a plastic bag it is easier to put on handlebars to carry home.If I am buying meat or fish in a leaky wrapper I like to put them in plastic bags to protect my own cloth bags and also my car.

Many years ago we were worried about the environment and told how many tree were being cut down to provide grocery bags and what that was doing to the rainforest! I stopped using paper bags then to satisfy the greenies. Now the greenies have changed their tune and want to stop the plastic bags.

Perhaps it is time for the greenies to start living realistically. Let us have sensible products for sensible uses. Let us throw away our old trash, recycle in our blue bins, buy the foods that we find nutritious rather than because of their wrappings. Treat us like rational, intelligent people who make rational, intelligent decisions.

I am not a 2 year old child and I do not need to be treated like one.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 10:52 am

This is not about plastic or the earth. It's about how government works.

Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

The ugly " Inconvenient Truth" is that the results have been instant increases in E-Coli and other intestinal infections with increased deaths due to these infections. People don't wash the reusable bags, plus storing them in car trunks make E-Coli happy as clams at high tide. BEWARE!
Well, Govt will say "That is not our fault, people should wash their bags", yeah sure.
Same goes for mercury pollution in "Green" bulbs.
"It is not our fault people throw them in the dump, they should recycle them, yeah sure.
Your Govt. in action.
Think about this, please.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:32 am

Spot on, John Galt. This is more dishonesty, government pretending to believe that people are the saints we all know perfectly well they are not.

And now we have nothing to look forward to except living with the results of this dishonesty.

Posted by Lorin Krogh
a resident of University South
on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:36 am

This is our home. How long do we need to foul our own nest to acknowledge a problem? It doesn't seem idiotic to fear that a section of the Pacific Ocean has a zone, many miles wide, photographed from the air and witnessed by mariners, that is partially made of of "disposed" plastic bags. Also, comparing ourselves with another country does seem idiotic. Since when do two wrongs make a right?

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm

That existence and/or size of that zone is questioned. If the zone is there, it got there because of things done in the past. Done in the past because we weren't saintly then. And aren't now. But with more awareness, we probably would not be quite as awful as before.

That could be an argument if you did not think it more important to address how dishonest city staff and council members have been. They should not have wasted money getting "Menlo Park" cloth bags manufactured for distribution, circulating surveys, and so on. They were always going to have this ban, so all of that was a waste--and worse.

Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Let us take the long view on this issue. Say, five years out, or ten, or twenty.

Plastic bags are made out of petrochemicals. We know the negatives with regard to that.

I would hazard a guess that most of them currently are NOT being reused OR recycled.

They are a significant danger to wildlife, and they are a contributing factor to the ever-growing Pacific garbage dump. (Please, if you are unaware of this environmental disaster, google it).

If you happen to care about aesthetics and visual pollution, in your travels be more aware of the mess bags create. Look at the side of freeways and roads. Look at the parks. Look in commercial areas.

People of many cultures and countries, and I am not limiting this to "developing" countries, would never expect to shop and have bags provided at point of sale.

It is easy to develop the habit of taking a bag with you. Keep a stash in your car and coat closet. For a few dollars you can purchase a light-weight nylon bag that folds up and fits in a pocket or purse. These bags can be used hundreds of times, and they hold up to 20 or 30 pounds.

We need to start somewhere. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm

moi, 1970, Stanford, White Plaza: a demonstration against these bags because of the harm-to-birds issue. 40 years back.

It just wasn't the issue of the day then.

Car? Coat closet? I have neither. I do have stashes of all kinds of bags.

Providing bags at point of sale? Done 1. to increase sales, 2. as advertising. For awhile, everybody did that, in a lot of countries. Everybody expected a bag. Now provision of bags is offloaded onto the individual. Like pay phones being gone, tax forms not being sent out, drinking fountains gone (bring your own water in its plastic bottle).

20 or 30 pounds of WHAT? potatoes?

Why don't we start insisting that everything we buy is in bulk, and we bring our own containers? That's what we need to see.

But, first, as I said....

Posted by I'll Manage
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I'm very glad to see this ban and hope those so terribly affected by this can soldier on through life despite of it. I know its hard, but we're with you to help with this adjustment if needed.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I wish the greenies would realise it is not about plastic bags, trash pickups, or eating organic foods.

It is about Government making sweeping decisions for reasons that are about politics rather than anything else.

Of course a lifetime ago the Oceans were a dumping ground for all sorts of reasons. Today we do know better and we have cleaned up our act. We have cleaned up mainly through education and teaching the younger generation. When I was a child, we had far less disposable things to dispose of in our trash. My mother washed all our diapers. Never heard of a paper plate or even a kleenex. Our toilet paper was hard and scratched our delicate butts. Generally speaking we made a lot less trash but disposed of it less thoughtfully. We also had no water shortages so doing laundry was no problem. Now we worry about the amount of water we use and have low flow showers and toilets which barely do the job they were intended to do and as a result we end up longer in the shower and flushing twice.

On the other hand, we didn't know about second hand smoke or seatbelts. The adults in my family smoked all the time around me and no one cared if I didn't like it. When getting into the family car we had not seatbelts let alone carseats so we all piled in, sitting on laps of adults who were probably smoking in our faces.

Progress is not always done by forcing legislation and bans. Yes we are a lot safer because of seatbelts, car seats and no smoking rules. Since I am educated I know that use of paper goods and plastic disposable bags are to be used in moderation. However, I don't think going back to washing diapers and rags for feminine hygiene is progress.

Giving us educated people the choice of do we need a bag and if so what type is not going to get rid of the garbage heap in the ocean. Banning plastic shopping bags may just be the efforts by the latest council's vain hopes of getting a few more votes come the next election from a few greenies.

Posted by My My
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Always one or two cranks on the boards. Good change, good idea, happening everywhere. Deal.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

May be time for me to quit.

If you guys think this is such a marvelous innovation that you can and will close your eyes to what really matters, that's it.

Posted by Buh-Bye
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 24, 2013 at 3:13 pm

See ya, sometimes change is harder for some than others.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm

interesting question, whether this IS change.
Maybe we don't see the process up close usually. This time I did see it, and I saw that there was just a charade going on.
Probably government employees and elected officials always acted in exactly this way.
So, no, there is no change involved here.
(So why is it so hard for me that these people spent all this money supposedly exploring what was supposedly an option?)

Posted by Head Out of Sand
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm

When you ask for a plastic bag and they say you can't have one, you'll experience the change people are talking about. Until then, maybe just denial.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm

hmmm we tend to think people here are smart, but they just don't get that I am not talking about bags. Not the first time I have had this experience.

Posted by Yikes, PLASTICS!! help
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

No flimsy plastics, but the bags that are made sturdy with use of plastic. Seems it is somewhat good.
Paper bags are the best maybe, unless damp.
I DO love the environment and try to help the air, ground, critters, but hard to get folks to do the right thing, and sometimes we don't know what the right thing IS!!

Posted by On Point
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 25, 2013 at 6:55 am

"hmmm we tend to think people here are smart, but they just don't get that I am not talking about bags"
Yes, we do understand you are off topic and not talking about bags. You have a pet peeve issue that you want to discuss in this thread about plastic bags, but it seems others are staying on point/on topic, and that seems to be frustrating for you.

You are more than free to start your own corrupt gubment thread, but if you're gonna play in this sandbox, the topic is plastic bags, no matter how much you want to change that.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2013 at 8:11 am

OK, fair enough.
Next task: y'all know that 4/22 paper bags have to be made available for sale at the till. I am trying to find a way to be sure that those bags, as the bags in Washington state, are subject to sales tax. I am willing to spend time trying to find out how to go about this, but if anyone knows... and On Point, I hope you don't think this is off topic, but you might.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2013 at 8:39 am


Yes, but who is going to ask the question about the 10c charge for the paper bags at the till?

Is this a tax that goes to the City? What does the City intend to do with the money collected from this tax?

If this is a charge that the store gets to keep they will have the incentive to double bag, use a bag per item, or other marketing ploys to increase the number of bags they "sell".

Sorry, you can't pull the wool over our eyes like that. It is not just about plastic bags. It is about the greenies false attempts at guilting us into doing something that isn't going to make a big difference.

Now a big difference could be made by getting manufacturers to use less plastic wrappings. But, no, they are not doing that. Therefore this is no more than a feel good con.

There have been no studies to show that the Bay or the Ocean is full of Supermarket bags. Oh yes, there is pollution, but the likelihood is that supermarket bags are not the prime culprit. Not sure what the largest amount of plastic pollution is from, but I would hazzard a guess that it is from food wrappings. How about those little plastic covers on drink box straws that blow away by the wind the minute a child takes out the straw? How about the plastic wrapper on fruit sold in styrofoam trays? How about the two wrappers on bread? How about the baggies and/or saranwrap used on homemade bag lunches? How about the plastic wrapper on the multipak of team snacks taken to the soccer game or class picnic? They are just if not more likely to be blown away or sloppily discarded than supermarket bags. How about those overfilled trashcans in parks where people leave their trash beside the overlowing trash cans for a a few days? How about all those trash trucks on the highway that gradually lose their load at 60 mph because of sloppy maintenance to the packing of the trash? How about those plastic umbrella bags that many stores are now providing at the store entrance for wet umbrellas?

Get real and prevent trash getting where it shouldn't go rather than useful plastic bags being banned.

And yes, I take reusable bags to the store when I shop 99.9% of the time but sometimes I forget and sometimes I want a plastic bag for something messy.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

I totally agree with you, Resident. The bag tax would just be taking this whole thing to its obvious conclusion.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Responding to John Galt's claim that recycled bags are unsanitary:
This old wives tale was refuted by Consumer Reports, which actually cultured bacteria that they collected from recycled bags. Web Link
To quote from the report: "The researchers tested for pathogenic bacteria Salmonella and Listeria, but didn’t find any, nor did they find strains of E. coli that could make one sick. They only found bacteria that don’t normally cause disease, but do cause disease in people with weakened immune systems.

Our food-safety experts were underwhelmed as well. “A person eating an average bag of salad greens gets more exposure to these bacteria than if they had licked the insides of the dirtiest bag from this study,” says Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union. “These bacteria can be found lots of places, so no need to go overboard.”"

Posted by HORAY!
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm

So glad to hear this. Its been a long time coming!!!

Posted by j99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Now we will have to buy plastic bags for our garbage.

If the platic bags on the street or beaches bother people, pick them up or let's have the 56 million deadbeats on food stamps spend 10-20 hours per week doing something useful, like picking up plastic bags and trash.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Palo Altans in the pilot program will have to have a lot of bags for separating their non-food trash from recyclable items. Prediction: increased pet homelessness.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Predictions, other than rise in pet homelessness, bigger produce bags, higher food costs because no more advertising-via-bags, more small trash cans that can use bigger but still small produce bags... think of some more--

Posted by Eat Change
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 26, 2013 at 5:58 am

businessdecision, looks like people stopped playing with you and you're left you holding the bag. Enjoy.

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