The City Council agreed to move forward on banning single-use carryout plastic bags, and was in favor of implementing, and then increasing, a 5-cent fee for paper bags.
The decision follows in the footsteps of a court ruling upholding Marin County’s plastic bag ban in unincorporated areas. A lawsuit filed by Save the Plastic Bag Coalition arguing that the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by passing the January 2011 ban without completing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) first. With the county prevailing, Mill Valley is now plans to implement an ordinance of its own.
“I strongly support this,” said Councilmember Garry Lion. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad that we’re here.”
The ban would apply to grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores, and would affect about 10 locations in Mill Valley including Safeway, Whole Foods, CVS, Rite Aid and Jolly King.
It more or less mirrors that of the of the county’s, with two caveats.
If approved, there will be a 60-day grace period before it’s enforced, as opposed to the county’s six-month grace period. The council also supported implementing a 5-cent fee for paper bags which is the same as the county, but then increasing the rate to 10-to-15-cents in order to have a real impact in discouraging plastic bag use.
“Five cents in an affluent town like ours doesn’t do squat for behavior change,” said Vice-mayor Shawn Marshall.
Maureen Parton, aide to county Supervisor Kate Sears and speaking as a resident of Mill Valley, said it makes sense for the city move forward with a 5-cent fee now so that everyone is on the same page.
“If you go to Safeway in Strawberry, you’re paying five cents for a bag,” she said. And Mill Valley people — we really shop anywhere on our way home.”
She suggested increasing the rate later, along with other cities and the county.
“A level playing field is important to start, and if it needs to be escalated the boats all rise at the same level at the same time,” Parton said. “It’s easier for merchants and shoppers.”
Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce Chair Paula Reynolds agreed that the business community would prefer an established rate across the board. The Chamber is also working to develop a Mill Valley shopping bag with the names of local shops on it.
“If we hear anything else, we will bring that back to you,” Reynolds said. “We appreciate the collaboration and a chance to work on this.”
The Chamber has already notified many of the businesses that would be affected by the ban, but Councilmember Ken Wachtell questioned the proposed grace period.
“Is 60 days enough time for the stores that have plastic bags to deplete their supplies?” he asked.
“I can check,” said Senior Planner Danielle Staude. The city plans to reach out to the businesses to inquire how much time they would need.
Marshall also stressed the important of making sure the language of the ordinance includes room for rewarding customers for bringing their own reusable bags. Whole Foods, for instance, gives a 10-cent rebate for reusable bags, which customers can also donate to charity.
“Whole Foods uses an incentive, versus a penalty,” she said.
The board agreed to move quickly on the ordinance, and requested it be revised and brought back to the Council for further review and approval.