The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has voted to
protect the environment by banning free distribution of single-use
carry-out bags at retail outlets, the first step in what the Board hopes
will be a region-wide effort. The
Board voted 5 to 0 to phase out use of plastic bags by retailers in
unincorporated areas of the county by April 22, 2013, giving time for
stores and consumers to comply with the new law and to locate reusable
“We’re going to devote time and energy over the coming months to reach out to consumers and businesses, educating them about the environmental benefits of the ordinance and giving them time to adjust,” said Board President Adrienne J. Tissier, who co-sponsored the ordinance along with Supervisor Carole Groom.
Recognizing that plastic bags blowing in the wind, clogging creeks and streams and littering the environment is a regional problem, the Board also approved an environmental impact report that can be used by 24 Peninsula cities in adopting their own ordinances. The report found that a staggering 552 million plastic bags are used annually in the 24 cities and the unincorporated area of San Mateo County.
“We’re eliminating more than 500 million plastic bags annually, to the benefit of the San Francisco Bay, our local rivers and creeks, and local wildlife,” said Supervisor Carole Groom. Starting April 22, 2013, shoppers requesting a paper bag would be charged a minimum of 10 cents per bag until Dec. 31, 2014, and 25 cents per paper bag starting Jan. 1, 2015. The ordinance is expected to cut down the use of disposable plastic bags by 95 percent.
Environmental groups praised the Board’s action, testifying during a public hearing that plastic bags pose a serious environmental threat. Reducing the number of plastic bags in circulation should also save taxpayer dollars that will no longer need to be spent collecting the litter.
“Today, our Board of Supervisors took a significant step toward reducing the plastic that litters our neighborhoods, harms and kills wildlife, and pollutes the bay and ocean waters we have the good fortune to share,” said Dean Peterson, Director of Environmental Health for San Mateo County. “A simple commitment to bring our own bag whenever we shop will have positive effects that extend well beyond our County’s borders.”
Restaurants were exempted, as were non-profit organizations with retail outlets. Grocery retailers will still be able to distribute small plastic bags that customers can use to take vegetables, fruit, meats and pharmaceuticals to check out. Customers participating in certain programs for low-income residents may be provided a reusable bag at no charge.
The cities in San Mateo County that participated in the EIR 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 Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco and Woodside. Cities in Santa Clara County that participated in the EIR are Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Milpitas and Mountain View.
The environmental impact report found that 20 billion plastic bags are used annually in California with less than 10 percent of those being recycled.
Supervisor Carole Groom's Office