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City looks to ban plastic straws, produce bags

Original post made on Jun 7, 2019

Plastic straws, disposable utensils and beverage stirrers may soon be on their way out of Palo Alto as part of the city's new effort to protect creeks and reduce the amount of landfill-bound waste.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 7, 2019, 6:54 AM

Comments (51)

21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2019 at 7:03 am

Buying meat in grocery stores I find the packaging leaks raw meat juices and need to be wrapped in plastic before putting in the cart and putting in my reusable grocery bags.

These juices if not prevented make the grocery carts dirty and contaminated with germs that will be passed on to anything that is put in the cart. Cereal boxes, prepackaged bread, reusable produce bags, will all get contaminated. Anyone pouring cereal or making a sandwich will likely get cross contamination.

Will the reusable produce bags be washed, or will they get covered in contamination from the meat packages.

In the past all meat was well wrapped in butcher paper. That is not the case nowadays. Are we going to have increases in illnesses from this practice.

However, I am all in favor about getting rid of single use cups as long as people wash them. Are coffee shops going to have washing facilities for customers to use to wash their cups before refills, or are they just going to be rinsed quickly in the restrooms?

These questions have to be discussed.


15 people like this
Posted by paloverdeman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 7, 2019 at 7:10 am

paloverdeman is a registered user.

For some reason or another, I've always preferred paper straws...more organic & they have a better feel to them.


25 people like this
Posted by Hail Hillary
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 7, 2019 at 7:30 am

Yet nothing about the No.1 pollutant in landfills... Disposible dipers. Where have all the diper services gone?


60 people like this
Posted by much bigger problem
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 7, 2019 at 8:13 am

Perhaps the city should consider looking at the thousands of blue single use plastic bags that the Palo Alto Weekly dumps on the sidewalks throughout Palo Alto every Friday.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2019 at 8:30 am

PLASTIC is our enemy!
Purge the world of the evil plastic and we shall have utopia!


10 people like this
Posted by Donate now, donate tomorrow, donate every day
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2019 at 9:07 am

Much bigger problem - - maybe you can make a hefty donation to the weekly so that they can replace those bags. Remember the weekly Depends on your donations to keep them afloat while they give away their Product for free


8 people like this
Posted by saving as good as giving
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2019 at 10:00 am

@donate, the Weekly needs to look at its wasteful delivery model. It can save tons of money by no longer buying, wrapping and distributing thousands of single use plastic bags every week. They can start with the summer months where there is no chance of rain.


21 people like this
Posted by Marj
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 7, 2019 at 11:04 am

I have several disabled friends that require plastic straws to drink out of glasses and cups. The metal ones cannot be used with hot liquids as they will burn the lips and mouth. Paper straws will get mushy and squishy so they won't work well for them either. A plastic straw will work for both instances. I hope that there will be consideration or exception for those who are disabled.


17 people like this
Posted by cc
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2019 at 11:35 am

Restaurant owner here:

1. We've been only using paper products for to-go items for the 10year-old life of our business, and it's all very manageable.
2. Why aren't plastic water bottles (or drink bottles) also outlawed? They are huge contributors to environmental pollution.
3. I hope the city enforces these requirements, since as I still run into Chinese restaurants in Palo Alto using single use plastic bags and containers for to-go. I can name names, but that would be unneighborly.

Thank you for doing this!

We've felt like an island always using paper, bamboo, and glass bottles. It's about time everyone does their part!


2 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 7, 2019 at 11:53 am

jh is a registered user.

I have trouble swallowing and keep reusable plastic straws which (come with their own slender cleaning brush and can also be put in the dishwasher) in my purse. Easy.

Grocery stores will have to be more careful about how their meat is wrapped. However, these days most if not all pre-packaged meat seems to come with those little liquid absorbing pads underneath and I seldom have to use a plastic bag, but I don't see why a compostable wouldn't work if necessary.

Compostable bags are available and we should be paying the extra few cents if we want to use them. I only bag my produce if absolutely necessary, although I am able to buy in small quantities.


4 people like this
Posted by Cal Ave Neighbor
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 7, 2019 at 11:58 am

Cal Ave Neighbor is a registered user.

@Marj - Totally understand your concern for your friends. In our home we have had a good experience with the metal straws. My take is that they are great indicators of temperature in a warm/hot beverage. If the metal straw is hot to the touch you can bet the liquid will be too hot to sip. Not sure you get the same warning with a plastic straw. In addition, I always had an uneasy feeling about using plastic in a hot beverage.


15 people like this
Posted by Straw Man
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2019 at 12:02 pm

I'd like to see anyone who litters a straw, or anything else have to pay heavily for it - or for defacing property such as vandalism or grafitti. Why do those of us who behave like adults have to increasingly make more room and give more respect to what amount to the barbarians who live amongst us? They should have to beware of us, not the other way around. This goes back to how people who are not raised by fully human parents become not fully human adults and parents themselves. Tolerating these kind of bahaviors is like rewarding them, and soon that is all there will be.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 7, 2019 at 12:52 pm

"complicated in a hospital environment ... workplace violence risk" ??


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2019 at 3:39 pm

I was looking at the draw string mesh reusable produce bags today. $5 for two bags. That is a bit expensive considering an average family may require 10 - 12 bags for a shopping trip, thinking things that are small such as green beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, and mixing things like apples and oranges would not be a good idea. Since they will also need to be laundered regularly, particularly after using for onions, loose potatoes, corn, etc. the price will need to come down considerably before it makes sense to use them instead of free plastic produce bags which can be used for other things such as dog poop and messy kitchen waste.


12 people like this
Posted by Keep the Straws
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Agree with what Marj says above. For people who have issues with swallowing, there should be plastic straws available upon request. You can't just expect everyone to be bringing their own straw. And paper straws rarely last more than a few sips before they get mushy; they aren't a viable substitute.

(Also, curious at what would happen to boba shops, since you can't really drink boba without a plastic straw.)


17 people like this
Posted by Resident1
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Resident1 is a registered user.

This seems like a feel-good, look-good proposal. I would prefer that our city spend its time and resources on more impactful measures that directly address global warming, which is much more serious than plastic litter. We need our city to step up and care about and act on the highest priority items. Not this.


17 people like this
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:26 pm

:For some reason or another, I've always preferred paper straws...more organic & they have a better feel to them."

But they make terrible pea shooters. I'm stocking up on plastic straws while I can.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:27 pm

^ the most "impactful measures" are the ones which impact us personally.


6 people like this
Posted by paloverdeman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 7, 2019 at 6:21 pm

paloverdeman is a registered user.

For those who require a straw for swallowing why not simply carry a small diameter Pyrex glass tube?

No more plastic or paper straws to deal with.


24 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2019 at 7:18 pm

I'm kind of sickened by the lockstep agreement and the amount of frowney comments on here. How is this stuff even remotely a priority? This is "Palo Alto problems" and then some. Is this why CC keeps raising fees and taxes and salaries, so that they can sit around a table in their meetings and fret about plastic straws? How is this even a priority? Too much time on their hands!


23 people like this
Posted by TJs already does
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 8, 2019 at 5:04 am

Happy to hear about these potential changes!

While I agree with concerns about meat leaking/contamination potential, compostable bags being provided is certainly an attainable solution.

Trader Joe’s has already switched its produce bags to biodegradable/compostable nationwide over a year ago!

They also have high standards for their packaging materials and waste reduction:
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2019 at 8:30 am

This is a step in the right direction, however I would like to see coffee shops and juice shops sell or give away free reusable cups for customers to bring in to refill
Hopefully reducing the thousands of cups and lids tossed into landfills each day in our area.
I'm not a customer at any of these places since it is both a waste of money and creates unnecessary trash.
Before these Starbucks and Jamba juice shops appeared we had a lot less trash.
Interestingly us older folks managed fine without them
And as teens and college kids we had more money in our pockets as well.
So I would love to see this go further in a serious way all across the state and the USA
Let's start it in Palo Alto since we were one of the first cities to teach and participate in recycling in the 70's.
Stanford and the companies in the area should jump on board as well - fast food places included! Their trash ends up in the same place as ours.


6 people like this
Posted by Alternative Materials
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 8, 2019 at 9:12 am

The key to this conundrum is to create more rice paper products which are bio-degradable.

Rice paper bags, straws, plates etc. will also create less of a littering problem in that they will eventually disintegrate over time & return to the earth.


1 person likes this
Posted by pestocat
a resident of University South
on Jun 8, 2019 at 10:52 am

pestocat is a registered user.

Compostable produce bags, what are they. When I'm at the produce stand, I always select the pale green bags and not the clear plastic bags. Are these green bags the ones we should use and approved with this new ordinance that will be discussed.


24 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2019 at 5:44 pm

I hate paper straws. I end up having to replace my soggy straws two or three times for a single meal. Why can't people just place their straws in the recycle bin?


14 people like this
Posted by use paper and compost
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 8, 2019 at 8:52 pm

> Why can't people just place their straws in the recycle bin?

Most recycling facilities do not accept plastic straws, for obvious reasons.


13 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2019 at 9:24 pm

@ use paper and compost - The "obvious" claim by activists is that machines have difficulty sorting plastic that isn't larger than two inches. However, this isn't entirely true. Machines exist that can do this; however, recycling centers don't want to invest in them.

What if people -- particularly at restaurants -- sort this out themselves? What if there was a special bin that is ONLY for straws (and even had a small opening to block other things)?

Most straws are used -- and disposed of -- in restaurants. They are Type 5 plastics and can be recycled. However, many recycle centers don't want to invest in the tools or time to do this. However, if restaurants were required to self-sort straws, it could easily work. According to the American Chemical Society, the same is true for both straws and plastic bags.

Instead of the government banning plastic straws, why not find a different solution that doesn't restrict people? Surely there can be containers in which straws can be easily disposed of instead of implementing an intrusive ban them. If plastic straws are as big a problem as activists claim, then let's solve the problem rather than implementing yet another ban.


24 people like this
Posted by use paper and compost
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 8, 2019 at 9:37 pm

> According to the American Chemical Society

Well, there ya go. That's awesome. No little twinges as you typed/copied that?

Just compost paper straws. No recycler wants used paper (contaminated.) Have a lovely evening.


3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2019 at 11:35 pm

The Weekly should be prohibited from dropping their paper on residents who do not wish to receive. Delivery of unwanted papers is a security risk and a burden on neighbors who pick them up to protect households that are away.


8 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2019 at 2:25 am

@ use paper and compost - I agree that it is an awesome thought. However, there was no "copying and pasting." It's a shame that you would stoop to some unfounded accusation because you are unwilling to consider alternatives to government intrusion of people. Like many people attest, paper straws are just...terrible.


9 people like this
Posted by @Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2019 at 8:01 am

"Instead of the government banning plastic straws, why not find a different solution that doesn't restrict people?"

Because every time the government forces through arbitrary environmental laws, they're really doing it because of financial incentive. But the climate change alarmists and self-styled protectors of wildlife fall for their virtue signaling every time.
Punishing people means imposing fees, which means more revenue. This is why government solutions are always tainted, in a way, but the bleeding hearts are always too naive to see this.





14 people like this
Posted by Learn From The Homeless
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2019 at 8:31 am

I am homeless and due to the kindness of some local restaurants I can procure an occasional meal from time to time. To avoid encumbering them, I always carry an army surplus mess kit with me and they tastefully arrange the food in it. I also have a pull-out metal cup from my surplus canteen & they sometimes fill it with iced tea. Utensil-wise, a spoon is all one needs & I always carry a large stainless-steel one.

If Palo Alto diners brought their own personal mess kits & dining utensils for take-out orders, paper & plastic garbage could greatly be reduced.



Like this comment
Posted by The Reality Of It All
a resident of University South
on Jun 9, 2019 at 11:44 am

^^^It would have to be a 'designer' inspired mess kit before any upscale Palo Altan or wealthy immigrant from overseas would even consider this option.


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm

"Punishing people means imposing fees, which means more revenue. This is why government solutions are always tainted, in a way, but the bleeding hearts are always too naive to see this."

A tax by another name would be enthusiastically welcomed by those of a certain political persuasion. So we'll call these fees "tariffs".


19 people like this
Posted by University Avenue Homeless
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2019 at 1:38 pm

@Learn From The Homeless
> I always carry an army surplus mess kit with me and they tastefully arrange the food in it.

Me too! Except that I carry a small wooden bowl that I made in high school years ago. When I am walking along University Avenue & wander towards the back of the various restaurants, I feel like an urban Buddha. Some of the surplus menu offerings are really good.

The restaurants that have turned me away may someday have to answer for their overt rudeness and insensitivity as karma keeps a watchful eye.

Though my choice of meals are somewhat limited in choice, I can often procure a $30.00 meal for free (minus the little adornments).

Palo Alto is a far safer place to hang out than Santa Cruz & I wish i could afford an RV like some of the more fortunate ones.


11 people like this
Posted by paloverdeman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2019 at 7:07 pm

paloverdeman is a registered user.

^^^ I tried something similar in Napa Valley. I went up to the sous chef at The French Laundry with a battered Marie Callender pie tin & asked for a sample of one of their overpriced dinners. It didn't fly.


Like this comment
Posted by chopsticks
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2019 at 11:39 pm

What about chopsticks? They are compostable. Why don't they just return to the good old days when people used paper bags and wax paper? Maybe they should use straws made of bamboo.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chopsticks Have Limitations
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 10, 2019 at 6:08 am

Chopsticks are designed for food that is already cut/diced in meal preparation or for stuff like noodles & fish (which tends to flake).

Try eating an uncut NY steak or pork/lamb chop with just a pair of chopsticks.

Paper bags & wax paper are a good idea.

Bamboo straws would work too.


7 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 10, 2019 at 12:10 pm

The paper Weekly goes direct to recycling, unread. So do the paper phone books. How do we turn those off?


5 people like this
Posted by A.E. Neuman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2019 at 1:40 pm

What's next....toilet paper? Maybe the environmental groups Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund might actually try cleaning our creeks by removing the disposed shopping carts which are the #1 cause of creek pollution along with homeless folks using our creeks as their personal toilet facility. Stop worrying about plastic forks, spoons, and straws.


4 people like this
Posted by Litter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Rick - let the weekly know you no longer want delivery. If it Persists, call the police and file a company against the weekly for littering and trespassing.


13 people like this
Posted by Plastic Straws Are Here Forever
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Some plastic straws will never be replaced or banned.

Have you ever had a cocktail with a paper straw? Even when paper straws were commonplace, plastic straws were in regular usage...those small narrow-gauge ones.

Stirring a cocktail with a paper or bamboo straw just wouldn't be the same.

Besides, plastic cocktail straws are a lot smaller than the kind used for soft drinks & milkshakes. It takes far more of them to create this so-called plastic pollution issue than the larger ones.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Palo Alto needs to spend more effort on infrastructure! We have lost power around town again and for many business has forced to stop and for others traffic is such a mess that life is unbearable in this heat.

We all need to do what we have to with our plastic items, but it is the City that needs to work on its infrastructure since that is what we pay our bills for.


6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2019 at 4:53 pm

While acknowledging the good intentions of PA City Council, I bet there are bigger problems (of waste, pollution) one could target. Example: polluting overseas airplane junkets by our officials (well, Menlo Park officials enjoyed those, to China), which are FAR more polluting than plastic straw usage in Palo Alto. I like straws.
Meanwhile, I hate coffee and have NEVER purchased and then thrown out ANY Starbucks etc. coffee cups, lids, stirrers....
Micro-managing, fees, local fussy laws leads to confusion, too (among residents, workers, visitors in area cities)
Yes, meaningful reductions in usage, wasteful practices are well worth entertaining, but I often notice ways individuals trade-off (are excellent composters, for example, which goes unnoticed and unappreciated by the city), and meanwhile our city focuses on straws.
- from someone with a little difficulty in swallowing


3 people like this
Posted by now you know
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 11, 2019 at 7:32 am

@Rick, you can stop delivery of the Weekly using the Weekly's "Vacation Stop" form: Web Link
Saves having to pick it up off the sidewalk and dump into the recycling bin each week.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2019 at 7:54 am

I am quite concerned about the health implications of this.

Can people be trusted not to use dirty reusables or worse contaminate things like shopping carts and fruit and veg, door handles, etc. Will people really clean use their reusable cups before refilling them at Starbucks?

Interesting that there's no talk about banning plastic gloves for food preparation and health workers. But of course, that would be a health issue!

Perhaps we should start using plastic gloves to touch our fruit and veggies!


5 people like this
Posted by Re-Use
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2019 at 8:16 am

Part of the problem is that we do not re-use what we already have available.

Old-timers will recall when groceries were often packed in various cardboard boxes that certain food items were originally shipped in.

This could partially reduce the need for paper and plastic bags.


5 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2019 at 10:50 am

The problem with liberal activism in general is that it always moves consistently towards dictatorship. Nothing new here with mandatory behavior changes imposed from the top. Green is a good idea for everyone and one that should certainly be promoted looking ahead to a sustainable future but it should not be imposed by fiat - the city counsel far exceeds its proper scope in this silly gesture to save the planet.
Plastic is both an extremely good way to preserve and market foods as well as a waste problem. We need to keep the value of good packaging and work harder on collection and recycling technology. The CC magic wand solution is too simplistic and too punitive to consumers and to merchants. Personally, I don’t like the CC in my grocery cart.
It’s another reason to shop elsewhere than PA or, for those who still like the packaging to order plates, bowls, spoons, etc from the web.


Like this comment
Posted by use paper and compost
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 13, 2019 at 11:47 am

> The problem with liberal activism in general is that it always moves consistently towards dictatorship

And yet it's republicans that try to keep the masses from voting.

This isn't about political ideology (well, to you it is) it's about saving the planet for our grandkids.


4 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2019 at 2:01 pm

I’m not aware of any qualified voter whose has been denied the chance to vote. Any evidence you can share? Labeling people because they have a different view is childish.
Of course this isn’t about ‘political ideology’ but since you mention it, how do we live together when everything resolves to ‘them’ vs. ‘us’. Neither ‘side’ owns an exclusive lock on compassion or responsibility or caring for the planet.
The planet is warmer, the skies more polluted, the resources more strained, the challenges to feed the world ever more challenging, etc. The solutions to these problems lies in better technologies, innovation, better management, better planning (the CC should have been doing more of this a long time ago) and frankly, better people. I know a lot of people who are perfectly able to make responsible decisions as adults and as good citizens without the need of a nanny state in the grocery store (and increasingly, in everything else). Those people will ensure that the planet endures without the minority minders constantly meddling. Bezos gave us Kindle that transformed a whole industry from trees to pulp to printing to trucking to warehousing and distribution to store to carting books home down to a simple keyboard click and all of it without the great Palo Alto City Council banning printing.


Like this comment
Posted by use paper and compost
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 13, 2019 at 4:02 pm

> The problem with liberal activism in general is that it always moves consistently towards dictatorship

> Labeling people because they have a different view is childish

Thanks for the help.


> I’m not aware of any qualified voter whose has been denied the chance to vote

Google: voter suppression in the United States


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