Sacramento County supervisors Tuesday scheduled a March 22 vote on a ban on plastic, single-use grocery bags after advocates overwhelmingly spoke in support of the proposal.
During a workshop, about 20 people, including a county employee dressed as “Bag Monster” covered in plastic bags, told supervisors that grocers in unincorporated areas should have the same restriction as the city of Sacramento. Only one person spoke against the proposed ban.
Supervisors Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy, who represent most of the city, said they support a ban. Supervisors Susan Peters, Don Nottoli and Roberta MacGlashan did not indicate their positions.
“I can’t believe it is the year 2016 and we’re still having this discussion,” Kennedy said. “There are so many societal goods to come out of this.”
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Nearly 150 communities in California have already adopted such restrictions.
The county proposal comes before California voters consider a referendum on a statewide ban in November. The plastic bag manufacturing industry gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot, which suspended the 2014 ban approved by state leaders.
Supporters said the county proposal would provide an easier introduction to bag restrictions because changes would be phased in over time. The state restriction, if it stands, would go into effect the day after the November vote.
Tim James of the California Grocers Association spoke in favor of a county ban. He said grocers support local bans in part because they have been modeled after the state law and create a uniform approach to the restrictions.
“It maximizes the impact to the environment,” he said. “It minimizes the impact to business.”
Asked by Peters why government needed to pass bans if grocers already support not using plastic bags, James said competition would lead some grocers to continue using plastic bags.
In Sacramento and other communities with plastic bag bans, grocers sell paper bags and multiuse plastic bags for 10 cents and more durable reusable bags for a higher cost.
County officials said a ban on plastic grocery bags would reduce county waste removal costs by about $150,000 a year and create additional benefits for the environment. Several college students from UC Davis and elsewhere spoke about the detrimental effect the bags have on the ocean.
Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste, a group that was instrumental in the passage of the state law, said about 40 percent of California residents are already operating under bag bans.
“This policy is working,” he said, adding that consumers are getting into the practice of reusing bags instead of buying new ones.