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Two cities consider joining single-use plastic bag ban
January 04, 2013, 05:00 AM Daily Journal Staff Report

With plans to follow San Mateo County in banning single-use plastic bags, two cities will hold public hearings next week to discuss making the possible prohibition live on Earth Day.

In Foster City, the council will consider a second reading of an ordinance to amend its municipal code Monday night to ban single-use carry-out bags and require retailers to sell recycled paper bags or reusable bags at a minimum cost of 10 cents.

The San Bruno City Council will meet Tuesday night to consider similar amendments to its municipal code.

The two cities are following others in the area that have already signed on to adopt a countywide ordinance passed at the end of the year.

But plastic bag manufacturers contend reusable bags are actually worse for the environment and that banning them will lead to job losses.

Paper bags, made from trees, require four times as much energy to produce, according to the industry.

A plastic bag ban would kill jobs, hurt small business and the environment all at once, Cathy Browne, general manager of Huntington Park-based Crown Poly wrote in an opinion piece printed in the Daily Journal Thursday.

If the two councils move forward, city staff will begin outreach with residents and business owners.

The hope would be to make the ban live effective April 22, Earth Day. San Mateo County adopted its ban last year and several Peninsula cities, which had been holding out for a template model, are now following suit.

The county ordinance, which also begins in April and which the city ban echoes, allows patrons without reusable bags to request a single-use paper version from retailers for the price of first a dime and, after Jan. 1, 2015, a quarter. Retailers can voluntarily choose to give free bags to food stamp and WIC participants.

Bags without handles for medicine or to segregate food that might contaminate are exempt as are nonprofits such as Goodwill. Restaurants can still send food in to-go bags as public health officials have not yet ruled out the possibility of reusable bags leading to cross-contamination.

More than 20 billion disposable plastic bags are used in California annually — more than 500 bags per person per year in the county — and less than 8 percent are recycled, Dean Peterson, the county’s director of environmental health, told the Board of Supervisors in October when it considered the ban and an environmental impact report of a prohibition.

Twenty-four cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties participated in the EIR process but each city council that hasn’t already done so must adopt its own ban. Joining San Carlos were Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Mateo, South San Francisco, Woodside, Milpitas, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Campbell and Mountain View.

In partnership with the San Bruno Chamber of Commerce, the city will host the retail businesses informational meeting Jan. 16 and will hold two community meetings Jan. 17 and in February.

A copy of the entire model ordinance is available at

The Foster City Council meets 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 7, City Hall, 620 Foster City Blvd. The San Bruno City Council meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Senior Center, 1555 Crystal Springs Road.

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