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By Tim Hunt

Bring your own bag or pay up

Uploaded: Jan 31, 2012

The crusaders at Alameda County's waste management board continue to insert their regulations into our daily lives.
This is the outfit that convinced the Pleasanton City Council to mandate the three-can program to ensure that the city meets the agency's goal of recycling 75 percent of its trash. It doesn't matter than three passes from three garbage trucks costs consumers more—policymakers consider it necessary.
It also doesn't matter that the county has two large landfill operations that have plenty of space, particularly now that about half of what once went there as waste now is diverted.
The board's latest maneuver is to ban plastic bags from supermarkets and other retailers that aren't in the fast food business. The ban is part of the effort to reduce materials going to the landfill to 90 percent of what typically went there and to recycle any "easily recyclable" materials.
So next year, when you run to the store for eggs, milk and bananas, better remember to bring your own bag or the store must charge you a dime for a paper bag. The once ubiquitous plastic bags will be no more.
A dime certainly is not going to break the budget, but there are two principals at play here:
1. Why—other than to feel green—is it important to divert 90 percent of waste? The waste authority set the goal itself—no state mandate here. And, certainly, there's nothing wrong with being smart about recycling and being a good steward, but having government arbitrarily set a goal without any regard to economics (as it true with most regulators) is just wrong.
I suspect it also has to do with making sure the agency has something to do. Simply declaring a victory because more than half of the waste stream is diverted would put the agency and its bureaucrats out of business. When was the last time you saw any level of government go out of business?
The waste board is another one of these county and multi-county boards made up of elected officials from cities and counties. In this case, Dublin Councilman Don Biddle and Pleasanton Councilman Matt Sullivan are local reps—newly elected Councilwoman Laureen Turner represents Livermore, not that you could tell from the agency web site still lists Jeff Williams as the rep. He didn't stand for re-election.
2. Why is the government mandating private enterprises what type of services to offer to their clients and customers? Retailers have been moving aggressively to reduce their costs by offering incentives to customers to bring their own bags (Incidentally, I never have won a Trader Joe's drawing). There was no need for intervention, but messing in the private sector in hopes of meeting goal.