San Jose won't bump up bag fee due to good participation

San Jose shoppers have gotten so good at bringing their own bags, the city isn't going to increase the 10 cent fee as planned.
January 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Human behavior can be difficult to change. A 10-cent fee to buy a recyclable paper bag in San Jose has provided so much incentive for shoppers to bring their own bags, the plan to raise the fee to 25 cents has been dropped.

At some stores in San Jose, as many as 90 percent of shoppers bring their own reusable bags to avoid paying 10 cents for a paper bag. A spot check at Lunardi's Market found 100 percent did. It's that kind of behavior that's being rewarded. The bag fee will stay at 10 cents instead of going up to 25 cents this week.

"People are now getting into the habit of having reusable bags in their trunks, and when they're out and about and they're using it, and it's just part of what they do," said Jennie Loft from San Jose's Environmental Services Department.

The plastic bag ban has been in effect for two years in San Jose. However, neighboring cities didn't pass similar laws. So some shoppers took their business elsewhere.

"I thought it hurt our business a little bit charging for bags at first, but I think people after the long run know our store and know our business and come here anyways and then they bring their own bags as well," said Casey Tauscher, a Lunardi's assistant manager.

Peggy Booth lives in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. She's glad the fee will stay at 10 cents.

Booth: "Good decision. I think people are getting used to this, and I think that's important."
Louie: "Do you ever forget?"
Booth: "On occasion, on occasion, but not very often."
Louie: "So does that 10 cents remind you?"
Booth: "Yes, definitely."

Geography also caused confusion over where the bag fee is imposed.

"I live in Campbell actually where that's not an ordinance, and that's one of the things I always have trouble remembering is where am I? Am I over the city line or not?" said Bob Siederer, a Campbell resident.

That won't be a problem in a few weeks. Campbell shoppers will face a 10-cent-per-bag fee starting January 27th.

However, there's a petition drive underway to repeal the law. Real estate broker Larry Grattan failed to get 3,000 valid signatures in time for the next ballot. But he'll continue to collect them, fearing other bans will follow.

"They have Styrofoam, they all kinds of other issues, maybe plastic water bottles, whether you're allowed to drink sugary sodas or be taxed on those. This is just another form of tax," said Grattan.


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