City Council Backs Plastic Bag Ban

Mill Valley is moving quickly on an ordinance to ban single-use carryout plastic bags, along with placing at least a 5-cent fee on paper bags.

The Mill Valley City Council supports a ban on single-use carryout plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.
The Mill Valley City Council supports a ban on single-use carryout plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.

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. 

Fr. Patrick T. Michaels August 09, 2013 at 12:40 PM
If you ban the use of plastic bags, it would suggest that they would no longer be available at stores in Mill Valley. So what is the purpose of the 5-cent charge on using paper bags? Or do you want to ban their use as well? As to plastic bags being "single use," we use them to collect recycling as well as many other uses. If we are going to ban the use of plastic bags, what will our newspapers arrive in on rainy days? I suspect that the ban on plastic bags and charges on the use of paper bags is really more about how "green" we appear to be, rather than checking in on who we are, and what we need to do as a community to build a better society. I found it interesting that the 60-day grace period was discussed and apparently decided upon before anyone really checked with the stores is question, but then this is going forward with little sense as to where the population is on the issue. As far as the vice-mayor's sense that behavior change in an affluent community like ours needs a monetary motivation goes, I suppose, if money is the basis for the value system that we share (it is not mine, is money your basis for what is valuable), he may be right.
Anne Tique August 09, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Does anyone know where the monies collected from the 5-cent fees go? Do the stores keep them to fund their purchases of plastic and paper bags, or are they collected by the respective city/county, and what then? Though it needed further exploration, a Wharton study showed a connection between a spike in e-coli infection and recent bag bans locally.
Rebecca Chapman August 09, 2013 at 07:49 PM
i'm not at all surprised by the suggestion of a correlation between customers bringing their own bags and possible health risks. when i was a cashier at whole foods, people would often bring in canvas bags that were so moldy and funghal, they posed an immediate hazard to me, because of my asthma and epilepsy. what a nuisance! and when i complained to management, they were utterly dismissive, as per usual, and told me to stop being so melodramatic. i really hope the city council is considerate of mill valley market's concerns in all of this, because they are family owned, and not a corporate giant. of course, the health of the oceans is more important than my own, but in a town with such a big carbon footprint from car and air travel, it'd be great to see these issues discussed more practically, and less righteously, i guess...
Sherran Moyer August 10, 2013 at 10:11 AM
First, they discussed at the City Council meeting that the 5 cents stays with the store. The reason for this is they want to pattern MV's ban to be exactly the same as the County's, since the County was sued for the ban but the court upheld the County's right to do so. So, MV feels they are safe and won't be sued if their ban is patterned after the County's. The hope, though, is at some point the 5 cents could be directed to some worthy cause. Second, this is NOT an undue hardship on MV Market or any market, it actually saves them money, they are not having to pay for paper bags for their customer as they are now doing. This is a good thing for them. If customers want to not worry about the possibility of e-coli because of their dirty bags, so be it. You're right, the oceans and the environment are far more important than our selfish needs/wants.
Rebecca Chapman August 10, 2013 at 11:40 AM
it's not selfish to want to keep each other healthy & well, it's generous. grocery stores already have a huge negative impact on the environment, because of all that packaging + the costs of delivering products to their shelves, but so be it. and there are already challenges of making employees and customers sick, especially where hot foods are served, not to mention salad bars. the most vulgar display of whole foods' hipocracy (sp.???) was when a bunch of locals gathered plastic bottles they'd found at the beach, and someone made an enormous garbage sculpture shaped like a seagull. obviously we have to promote sustainability, but that's half of what i rang up all day: gourmet water, imported from overseas and stored in single use plastic bottles. disgusting!
Citizen August 10, 2013 at 11:45 AM
My guess is that less than 5% of customers bring their own bags to WF. Far less than that at Safeway. One should wash their reuseable bags like everything else. The Patch staff should follow members of the City Council the the markets to see if they bring their own bags or NOT. Parents are always talking about the future, but I find that it is more likely that those with no children are more likely to bring their own bags than ones with children. Practice what you preach.
Rebecca Chapman August 10, 2013 at 02:21 PM
well, i used to ring up andy, his wife & shawn sometimes, and i can't remember gary or ken at the register. but, stephanie rides an adorable bicycle with cool european style panniers sometimes, shawn tends to walk her talk too, and i know the mayor's wife is a diehard environmentalist. as much as one can be, with family & business & all that. it's all about striking a balance, and i think the council is doing a worthy job of trying to balance often conflicting interests. and i disagree that this isn't a bigger challenge for a smaller market than a conglomerate. oh, and andy never took a bag, but that's because he was usually only buying a post yoga snack item!
Sherran Moyer August 10, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Well it may be more of a challenge for smaller stores, but it's something that NEEDS to happen. Many things are a challenge but you still try to do the right thing -- challenges and all.
Sherran Moyer August 10, 2013 at 02:37 PM
I couldn't agree more with the post a few up about buying bottled water, such a stupid thing to do. We have perfectly good water here. But maybe they were on the go, hope so anyway. I agree, we must practice what we preach to our children. My rule is if it's sold in plastic, I don't need it that bad. I bought mesh bags for my produce so don't get them there. We all can do a better job of protecting the environment, me included, and we have to sometimes be inconvenienced -- maybe a little or maybe a lot. Maybe to answer the issue of dirty bags, for a while perhaps the stores can put in a flyer that reminds people to wash their bags, educating them on the germs that collect in them. Everything is about education I suppose.
Rebecca Chapman August 10, 2013 at 04:10 PM
it's a tough issue, and it usually takes a lot more than education to get things done on a more practical level. marinites are supposedly one of the most educated and concerned groups of citizens around, yet our consumption of this earth's resources abounds. we need to stop harming each other and our environment, that's my feeling, and each person chooses his or her own impacts, however wisely or not. i have the luxury of not having a home, car, mate, kids or pets, so my carbon footprint is exceptionally small right now, but you should see the looks i've gotten for drinking tea out of a paper cup and/or taking a plastic bag for my belongings. holy cow! and don't get me started about my junk food addiction. you'd think i was shoving fritos down other people's throats, the way they respond with such disdain. c'mon! they're gluten free! i think i'd rather feel inspired to save the planet, rather than being told by whole foods how much they are helping the cause, which is just a big, fat lie, that's all.
Magoo August 12, 2013 at 11:45 AM
I have done alot of observing. The typical person who does brings their own reusable bags to the market is a female, 50-70 years old, and drives a smallish car. The demographic which has the smallest percentage of people who bring reusable bags is MEN. I can count on one hand the number of men I have seen bring their own bags (this is over many years).


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