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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. 

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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