San Jose one step closer to plastic bag ban

September 22, 2009 6:36:20 PM PDT
The San Jose City Council passed 9-1 a proposed ordinance to ban plastic bags. It passed 9-1. But San Jose is also going after support from surrounding South Bay cities for a ban, because of opposition.

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San Jose has decided it can't go alone to ban plastic bags. So it has enlisted city leaders from Campbell, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Morgan Hill and Palo Alto to form a regional campaign.

Opposition has surfaced, prompting San Jose's City Council to proceed slowly.

"We're preparing for the kinds of legal challenges we know other cities have faced. That's why we've already started the steps for doing an environmental impact report. We want to make sure that we go forward in a way that is resistant to any legal challenge," said San Jose City Councilmember Sam Liccardo.

An outright ban on plastic bags is under discussion, along with a 25-cent charge to cover the cost of recycled paper bags.

The bag charge has prompted 7-Eleven owners to start a petition drive. About 2,700 signatures have been collected in one week.

"I'm going to be worried about how do I tell a mother that just bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread that she needs 25 cents more to carry this home," said 7-Eleven worker Rich Tatom.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed points out it will help retailers recover their cost.

"It is not a tax. If there is to be a charge, it would a charge that the retailers would recover for letting people have recycled paper bags because there's a cost to that, and it would be a way for them to recover their costs, but it would not go to the city," said Mayor Reed.

Councilmember Kansen Chu prefers to call it a tuition charge to make people more environmentally aware.

"You learn very quickly that you can save those 25 cents by bringing in one of your own reusable bags," said Chu.

Only retailers would be impacted by the ordinance. Restaurants are specifically excluded. The targeted effective date is the end of next year to give everyone time to prepare.

"If they ask me and they would charge, then I would probably say no, I'll just carry it," said 7-Eleven customer Scott Niheu.

The City Council spent the afternoon listening to 40 members of the community talking about the proposal and many people were opposed to it. The recycler said that he would lose his supply of plastic bags for what otherwise would be a viable business, while others feel that the government has no right to tell them what to do, and that they would rather than a ban on plastic bags.

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