City Council approves plastic bag ban
Published - 07/19/16 - 05:43 PM | 6624 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The San Diego Council City voted 6-3 on July 19 to become the 150th community in the state to ban single-use plastic bags from grocery stores and convenience stores, joining the state’s other major cities in enacting a ban.

“San Diego’s vote provides added momentum for Prop 67, which would protect the statewide ban signed by Gov. Brown that the out-of- state plastics industry is challenging in November,” said Mark Murray of California vs. Big Plastic, the group leading the effort to uphold the state law. “This puts more wind in our sails in our effort heading into November.”

San Diego becomes the 17th community to enact a plastic bag ban despite the challenge from the plastic bag industry. Sacramento County, Santa Barbara County, and Del Mar are among the communities that have added bans in the past year.

“San Diego can now take a leadership role in limiting plastic bag use and reducing plastic pollution. As we can see from other cities, the benefits are real, and it can be done without burdening our businesses or our most vulnerable residents,” City Council president Sherri Lightner said.

The approved ordinance would reinforce San Diego’s growing reputation for environmental stewardship and help reduce the nearly 700 million single-use plastic carryout bags that are distributed in San Diego each year. It is estimated that only 3 percent of the 24 billion plastic bags used each year in California are being recycled.

"We are thrilled that the San Diego City Council has shown leadership today to protect our ocean and beaches,” said Roger Kube of the Surfrider Foundation. “By removing approximately 700 million plastic checkout bags per year from circulation, it will have a tremendous impact on the plastic pollution issue that plagues our San Diego coastline."

A second reading of the ordinance will occur in two weeks. The ordinance will go into effect 30-40 days after the second reading, which means it will take effect in early September 2016. The ordinance includes a six-month grace period for grocery stores and pharmacies, which will not begin charging for bags until March 2017. Other retailers, such as convenience stores and small markets, will have a one year grace period starting in September 2016, so the ordinance will go into effect for those retailers in September 2017. 

Lightner has been working with the Surfrider Foundation to bring this ordinance forward since 2012. The item was initially heard by the Council’s Rules and Economic Development Committee in the fall of 2013. The committee unanimously directed city staff to draft an ordinance, with the goal of sending it to full council by the summer of 2014.

In early 2014, the City decided to delay the environmental review process due to the plastic bag ban that was under consideration by the California state legislature. The governor approved the item, but it was referendized at the state level and will be on the November 2016 ballot. Since the outcome of the statewide plastic bag ban is unknown, the City is moving forward with its own bag ordinance now that environmental review is complete.  This will ensure the City of San Diego has a bag ordinance in place regardless of what happens at the state level.

The ordinance will protect the health of wildlife, and minimize ocean, waterway, open space and roadway pollution. It will also serve to divert waste from the Miramar Landfill, helping to extend its lifespan and save taxpayers money.

“We want to see fewer plastic bags in the landfill as well as a cleaner landscape citywide,” said Mario Sierra, director of the city’s Environmental Services Department. “This includes making sure our waterways, our creeks and storm drains are not polluted with plastic bags. The City will continue to encourage all San Diegans to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible."

Groups supporting the Ordinance included the Chamber of Commerce, California Grocers Association, Californians Against Waste, Environment California, Surfrider Foundation, 7th Generation Advisors, San Diego Coastkeeper, the League of Women Voters of San Diego, Sierra Club San Diego, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Equinox Project, the Ocean Beach Town Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Plasticbaglaws.org, Save Our Shores, and WildCoast.

San Diego’s Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance includes:

· A ban on all single-use carryout plastic bags at point-of-sale retail locations;

· A 10-cent charge for paper bags;

· Exemptions for restaurants, newspaper delivery, and bags for transporting produce, meat, poultry, dry-cleaning or laundry.

· Exemptions for those participating in California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children. Non-profit vendors would be exempt for the first year.

· A six-month grace period before enactment for pharmacy and grocery retail locations. A one-year grace period for all others.

· Outreach and education by the City’s Environmental Services Department and the development of a program designed to secure sponsorships from local organizations and businesses to provide reusable bags to low-income families.

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