San Jose set to ban both plastic, paper bags at stores

Environmental group follows with area-wide "Bring Your Own Bag" campaign

Plastic and paper shopping bags may soon no longer be an option at San Jose stores after the City Council voted to ban them at all retailers beginning in 2010.

The City Council voted 9-1 to ban single-use plastic and paper bags effective Dec. 31, 2010. The ban comes after San Francisco in 2007 beecame the nation's first city to ban plastic bags although stores are still allowed to use paper bags.

Right after the vote, the Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition, or BayROC, called on stores and shoppers to embrace reusable shopping bags and urged shoppers to bring the bags to the grocery store.

The San Jose council's ruling will ban both, requiring shoppers to either bring their own reusable bags or use "green'' single-use paper bags -- bags with recycled content of 40 percent or more.

Restaurants, nonprofits and social service organizations would be exempt from the ban.

Residents and businesses will still be able to buy plastic bags in bulk or off-the-shelf, city spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said.

Proponents of the ban say it will reduce trash that collects in landfills, local streams, waterways and freeways. The city estimates that about 500 million plastic bags are used each year in San Jose, of which only 1 percent are recycled.

Before the ban takes effect, the proposal must undergo an environmental impact study that will require final approval by the City Council sometime around March 2010.

In the meantime, city staff will conduct a public outreach campaign to businesses and consumers, McGurk said.

City staff will also work with the retail industry to determine whether a 10- or 25-cent per-bag fee to cover the additional costs of using "green" paper bags would be appropriate.

At the council meeting, representatives from various merchant associations argued that the issue should be handled at the state level to establish a single set of regulations, McGurk said.

McGurk said that if the state Legislature passes legislation relating to a fee or ban on single-use bags, the City Council would revisit the issue to determine whether to keep the municipal ordinance.

Councilman Pete Constant voted against the ban and Councilwoman Rose Herrera was absent from the meeting due to illness.

The Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition kicked off its regional "Bring Your Own Bag" campaign with student-created media spots and three events in Bay Area cities in different stages of enacting bans on disposable single-use shopping bags.

BayROC, a collaboration between the nine Bay Area counties as well as many cities and agencies in the region, advocates reusable bags in place of single-use plastic and paper sacks, which require considerable natural resources to produce and often end up littering land and polluting waterways.

BayROC co-sponsored shopping bag giveaways at grocery stores in San Francisco, San Jose and Palo Alto. Campaign coordinator Emily Utter said other municipalities who are members of BayROC may also be hosting reusable bag events.

Utter spent a recent morning at an Andronico's grocery store in San Francisco's Sunset District, talking to customers about the importance of reusable bags, and handing out free nylon grocery totes to anyone who signed a pledge saying they will remember to bring their own bags when they shop.

Forgetting to bring reusable bags to the store is perhaps the biggest obstacle for eradicating single-use bags, Utter said. The program's motto encourages shoppers to "make it a habit and grab it."

Utter said she spoke to many shoppers who said, "Oh yeah I have them, I just don't remember them." Her group dispensed small, lightweight versions people can fit in a pocket or purse.

In San Jose, city representatives and recycling advocates followed up the official BYOB kickoff news conference by handing out about 300 reusable bags at PW Market's Foxworthy Avenue location. The group also stenciled a "Got your bag?" logo in the parking lot to jog shoppers' memories, said Adrianna Masuko, a policy director for San Jose Vice Mayor Judy Chirco.

The logo will help shoppers "avoid that Homer Simpson 'D'oh!' moment" if they forget to bring their reusable bags in from the car, Masuko said.

Launching the BYOB campaign in San Jose the day after City Council voted to ban most single-use plastic and paper shopping bags was just a coincidence, Masuko said. Chirco strongly supports educating consumers about reusable bags, and prefers "keeping the politics and the education component very separate," she said.

San Jose's ban will take effect in 2010. San Francisco instituted a plastic bag ban in 2007. Palo Alto's plastic bag ban at grocery stores took effect last week and the city is targeting a 30-percent increase in reusable bag use by February 2010.

Palo Alto representatives distributed reusable bags at Piazza's Fine Foods Wednesday. The city estimates the percentage of local shoppers with reusable bags jumped from 9 to 18 percent in the past year.

The campaign will also feature print, radio and television ads by students at San Francisco State University. Starting today, the ads will run on Comcast channels and some local stations, according to organizers.

Recent San Francisco State University graduate Carolyn Hom said her advertising, creativity and production class asked teams of students to design pro-reusable bag ad campaigns for BayROC.

Hom's team focused on Bay Area mothers, she said. "We used the fashion take, trying to make it a hip, cool thing to have a reusable bag."

Bay City News, Jeb Bing

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of Las Positas
on Oct 5, 2009 at 8:27 am

The Pleasanton City Council better not be getting any similar ideas. I am definitely a proponent of protecting he environment, but many environmentalists are completely over the top now. Banning plastic bags has some merit, since people are doing a lousy job of recycling them,they are creating a big polution problem, and they are larely made from petroleum. Paper bags, on the other hand, are biodegradable, are made from a renewable resource, and they have many uses within the home (not the least of which is dealing with the new trash sorting that has been foisted upon us). We don't through out a single paper grocery bag that has not been used for a needed purpose.

So, here's a message to the Leftie Mayor and City Council. You try to ban paper grocery bags in Pleasanton and that is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back - you will get voted out.

Like this comment
Posted by mark
a resident of Valley Trails
on Oct 5, 2009 at 8:33 am

another social engineering program by the radical "green" crowd. those single-use bags are not single-use in my household. they become trash can liners, bags to carry items to friends, hold wet swimsuits/towels from beach/pool, etc., etc. Hundreds of uses and we pay the cost at the store when we buy groceries. Let BayROC go mind their own business and find new markets for recycled items from the waste mgmt companies and stop trying to social engineer our behavior and preferences.

Like this comment
Posted by Rupert
a resident of Sycamore Heights
on Oct 5, 2009 at 8:37 am

If the environmentalist really want to protect the environment they would emphasize population control and shutting down immigration. They don't do this because their real agenda is left-wing politics, with their dream being control of the masses by a priviledged ruling class. Its all about control. It would not surprise me if the next thing on the enviro-Nazi's checklist will be controlling how much poop you can flush.

Like this comment
Posted by Granny Hatty
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Oct 5, 2009 at 8:46 am

Come on, Pleasanton. If the Ding-Dong Mayor and the Council even think of passing something like this its time to rise up and swat them down. If its even mentioned at Council, show up by the hundreds and let them know we have had a gut full of the enviro-kooks. San Jose passed this because their Mayor is an environmental lawyer. We don't want our Ding-Dong Mayor even thinking about trying it here.

Like this comment
Posted by Frog
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 5, 2009 at 8:49 am

How about they recycle some enviromentalists into compost. Maybe they'll come back as daisies.

Like this comment
Posted by Enviro Loony Tunes
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2009 at 8:51 am

It is really getting to be time to get out of California. It truly is the land of nuts.

Like this comment
Posted by Stay Cool
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2009 at 9:21 am

Yes, the land of nuts - as evidenced by the posts above.
Wait, wait - this is the best one:
"They don't do this because their real agenda is left-wing politics, with their dream being control of the masses by a priviledged ruling class." And that starts with banning disposable shopping bags! I can feel the power already! AAAAAARGH!!

Like this comment
Posted by WOW
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 5, 2009 at 9:32 am

I am embarrassed and disappointed to say I live in based on the comments above. Nice threats to our city government.

Personally, I cannot stand all the plastic bags that I get when I shop so I remember my own.

Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 5, 2009 at 9:47 am

The posts at the top of this discussion forum are an excellent example of the insidious branding and marketing the right wing has done to position many progressive policies like "recycling" as some evil plot by "Enviro-kooks" and "Left wing Lunatics" to control the world. Since when is it a bad thing to want a clean planet to leave to our children? Since when is it a bad thing to want to breathe clean air and drink clean water? To those posters who claim they "re-use" plastic bags, great!, but where do those bags end up once you have re-used them? Eventually they end up in a landfill.

C'mon people, is it really that hard to keep a few canvas grocery bags in your car to use when you go shopping?

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 5, 2009 at 10:28 am

Really?! Plastic and paper bags are the "straw that breaks the camel's back?" Seriously?

While I agree our elected officials' time is better spent on identifying ways to address the effects of the economy on our local community, I don't see this issue as being as apocalyptic as some of the previous posts make it out to be.

Like this comment
Posted by Old bag
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 5, 2009 at 10:46 am

As I recall, the reason we have plactic grocery bags is because the environmentalists convinced everyone that we were killing too many trees using paper bags. The plastic bags were more eco-friendly. Well are they or aren't they? They are labeled as recyclable yet PGS doesn't accept them in the new recycle container. More misguided or inept government policies and programs driven by special interests.

Like this comment
Posted by Julia
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2009 at 11:44 am

Well, I read 8 intelligent comments and 3 from foolish dreamers. Yes plastic bags have become a real problem...but Kraft way a problem. I don't believe anyone throws their paper bag in the garbage. Don't let the your city officials BS you...remember what I said about the Fire Chief and the retirement cost and who gave it to's those same self serving nice fools in your City council. Wake folks they playing with there own game rules. I am happy to live in Alamo, that's why we votes for NO New Town Of Alamo. Thanks Julia from unincorporated Alamo

Like this comment
Posted by Save The Plastic Bag
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm

San Jose has NOT banned plastic or paper bags. They voted to do an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the issue, that's all. They are not permitted to ban bags until after that EIR has been completed and certified. Then they are required by law to consider it. Then they can decide whether to adopt an ordinance banning bags.

We threatened to sue them if they passed a ban without first doing an EIR and they backed off.

This is more sloppy media reporting, misinforming the public.


Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 5, 2009 at 1:54 pm

@ Julia- Huh? Did you read your post before sending it? A few questions for you: what are "Wake folks"? Are these people who ride wake boards? If so, what do they have to do with the paper or plastic issue? What does the Fire Chief and no new town of Alamo have to do with paper vs. plastic? Color me confused.

Like this comment
Posted by Too Much is Too Much!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I am for saving the environment but lets not get carried away! Putting paper bags on the list? What are those people smoking - both the environmentalists and SJ city council!?! I know! Their own careers and the SPLASHY Headlines to advance their own agendas! Next Governor of CA? Let's all go back to chipping on stone tablets. Oh, we can't... we are destroying the environment with removing too much natural material... Let's build a fire to keep warm... We can't... it will pollute the environment... Let's die of weather exposure... No, we can't... it will pollute the ground water...

The point is we can't do anything without hurting something else... let's work together to develop technology to address issues... banning this and banning that is the the solution...

Like this comment
Posted by Aileen
a resident of Ponderosa
on Oct 5, 2009 at 3:06 pm


Isn't wonderful the city council has time to waste? Banning plastic bags is not the city's biggest problem. On the side of protecting the environment. The city makes many decisions to ruin the environment like not dredging the waterwalls because of the drought which in effect caused the salmon to die. In affect, murdering a population, it will take years if not decades for the salmon numbers to come back. Oh, by the way there are other ways in which the city to could help the environment. They are looking for a quick fix.

They really should try walking to work, or skating to work like the cone city worker who roller skates to work. Also, they should invest in solar panels for their own home and have worked that into their plans for the new city buildings. This actually helps wastes and the environment much more than the sily plastic bags idea.

Oh, did they notice, paper is made from lumber alot of paper bags have already been recylced and are still are able to be recycled. Here's another one lets do away with plastic diapers and go back to cloth diapers. This should help the environment. What do you say?

I use plastic bags for many things other than my purchase. The dress bags go over suits and dresses to protect them. I line my garbage pail so it won't be a cause of negative stinch and other formiable bacteria. I also use it to bring my detergent to the cleaners. I can use it to bring food for lunch, potlucks, and other places. If something is wet I can stick it in the bag. Here's another one, it hasn't rained in some time, I also used it for a cover over my head to keep my head from becoming wet. Oh, what are we going to do with large purchases of many items, like clothes, buying for food for a family of five for a week. San Francisco many think it's fashionable. It isn't. They have so many ways to reduce waste in that city. They refuse to do many of them because of cash.

The city has to create jobs, put people away for the real crimes they commit, put Dolares Carr on notice, and stop people from using other peoples work history as their own.

Simply put this is the easiest way for the city to look good.

Like this comment
Posted by PToWN94566
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2009 at 4:41 pm

PToWN94566 is a registered user.

My family uses the paper bags from stores as garbage bags. We have one under the sink, toss our trash in it, and then place the bag in the garage bin outside.

People did use to say things like using plastic is better because we are cutting to many trees down, but in reality paper or plastic are equally "bad" things. If either paper or plastic are recycled, people seem to forget about the energy and pollutants that are put from factories recycling these products. The best bet is to use the reusable bags but then I've also heard about some of these bag containing chemicals that make some people sick. It seems to be a situation where no one is pleased. Maybe cities that are passing these bans want all of us to move away, live off the land, and live in a yurt.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

We were in Europe last summer, and some places charged for bags. So if you did not bring your own, you could still get bags (even plastic), but it was not cheap. So very quickly we got a few canvas bags and carried them all over, just like we do here at home.

There is no extra effort when you use your own canvas bags, but charging for bags was a little annoying, especially on vacation in foreign countries!.

Maybe stores should go back to rewarding customers who use canvas bags instead? I always use canvas bags at the store, but have never gotten reimbursed for it, yet the article talks about charging 10 cents per bag.

Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Julie is a registered user.

I agree that the hardest part would be remembering the bags..or enough of them. I always seem to buy more items than I planned to buy. I imagine it would become second nature over time. For now, I hope we continue to have options here in P-Town.

Like this comment
Posted by momof2
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2009 at 8:27 am

It take more energy and resources to make a paper bag than it does a recycled bag.Personally I use my own bags for the simple reason that they do not break and are much easier to carry.
For those of you interested....I am a foreigner who pays taxes and supports the schools with my time and effort. Many of you have told me the school would have a hard time without my efforts......

Like this comment
Posted by Julia
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2009 at 8:55 am

Hey "Color me Confused" or Curious which ever fits. Maybe you should lean how to read between the lines and you may learn something. "Wake Folks" are folks that ride wake boards, but in my post I left out the word "up". Learn how to read between the lines. The only thing those wake boarder's would have to do with the plastic issue is that while wake boarding they may get tangled up in all those plastic bags floating in the water. Well the Fire Chief issue was mentioned to target the fools in city councils and their crazy decisions...learn how to read between the lines. And regarding your final observation...we the people of Alamo voted NO NEW TOWN of ALAMO...the reason we voted it down was because we didn't want those same type of governing fools guiding our future.

Hey Curious, lean how to read between the lines, you may learn something.

BTW, can you read this...
It's alawys greneer on teh ohter sdie of teh fnece.

If you can, you should have been able to handle my previous post.

Have a nice day Curious

Like this comment
Posted by Benjamin
a resident of Gatewood
on Oct 6, 2009 at 9:39 am

I am inspired by San Jose's forward thinking and will try to bring my own bags from now on.

Like this comment
Posted by Old bag
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 6, 2009 at 11:21 am

Benjamin (and others), good for you bringing your own bags to the store. That's what my wife does...and if I only have a few items I don't use a bag. That's conservation and the government didn't even need to force us to do it! Exactly the way it should be.

Federal, state, and local governments are often inept and inefficient. Their involvement in our day to day lives should be minimal. Demand smaller government!

Like this comment
Posted by jg
a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Oct 7, 2009 at 10:44 am

Neither paper of plastic is good. Here is a link showing the comparison. The 2nd link shows what happens to all those plastics bags and is quite disgusting. San Jose should be praised for what they are doing (not condemned), and I hope Pleasanton makes a statement and does the same thing. It really isn't that hard to go get a few reusable shopping bags, and do your part to make the earth a better place for us and mostly for our kids.

Web Link

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Polprav
a resident of Ridgeview Commons
on Oct 22, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

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

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Couples: Reading List
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,494 views

New Donlon school is at least four years away
By Tim Hunt | 1 comment | 876 views