San Carlos becomes the latest Peninsula city today to ban single-use carry-out bags at retailers unless customers are willing to shell out at least a dime.
The ban, which mimics the county’s template and dozens of other city prohibitions already in effect on the Peninsula and in San Mateo County, exempts bags without handles for medicine and newspapers or to segregate food that might contaminate along with nonprofits such as Goodwill. Restaurants can also 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.
Patrons without reusable bags can 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.
The San Carlos City Council approved the ban in February but held off on its start date a little longer than other like-minded cities which coordinated with Earth Day on April 22. San Mateo also held off until June 6 and Redwood City and East Palo Alto also set their own dates; those bans takes effect in October.
Although the ban officially didn’t start until Monday, some San Carlos retailers began charging for bags earlier which they are legally allowed to do.
San Mateo County, which funded the environmental impact report for the bans, will be in charge of education and enforcement countywide. Cities using the county bag ban model include Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, Pacifica, Portola Valley, San Bruno and South San Francisco. Millbrae used its own ordinance. The town of Woodside opted against passing a bag ban.
But while the San Carlos City Council approved its ban, the decision was far from smooth. The council voted 4-1 with Councilman Matt Grocott dissenting after some testy exchanges with Dean Peterson, director of environmental health for the county and the ordinance’s primary architect. Grocott questioned if plastic is a more significant litter contributor than other items like coffee cups and cigarette butts, argued the mandate is unconstitutional and worried about the health risks of reusable sacks.