Residents in most of San Mateo County better have their reusable carriers handy by Monday — that’s when bans of single-use plastic and paper bags take effect in 12 cities and the county itself to coincide with Earth Day.
All of the ordinances beginning are modeled on the county’s template which was crafted after a lengthy environmental review process meant to head off any legal challenge. Other cities also have bans on the books but those don’t kick in until later. The dozen cities joining the county Monday in the ban are Burlingame, Daly City, Colma, Brisbane, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Half Moon Bay, Foster City, Belmont and Menlo Park.
San Mateo follows on June 6, followed by San Carlos July 1, Redwood City Oct. 1 and East Palo Alto on Oct. 2.
The ordinances allow 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 and newspapers 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 haven’t yet ruled out the possibility of reusable bags leading to cross-contamination.
Although county officials are enthusiastic about the new restrictions and expected long-term environmental benefits, they acknowledge not every resident may fall in line.
“We are well aware that there are many on either side of this issue who feel passionately about banning [the bags],” Dean Peterson, director of environmental health, said in a prepared statement.
Peterson called preserving the county’s natural beauty “a more than reasonable tradeoff.”
The town of Woodside passed on voting on a ban.
San Mateo County, which funded the environmental impact report on the proposed ban, will also be in charge of education and enforcement countywide.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102.