San Jose considers fee on store bags

January 28, 2009 6:47:33 PM PST
Cities like San Francisco now ban some businesses from giving customers plastic bags. But in the South Bay, they are considering a different approach. San Jose is looking at a fee on both plastic and paper bags as a way to encourage people to shop with their own reusable bags.

San Jose is tackling the bag debate. Its idea is for stores to charge 25 cents for every paper or plastic bag used at checkout.

Opinions from consumers we spoke to range from, "No, not a good idea," to "Seems inordinate to me, seems like a lot of money," to "I think if it would get people to use their own bags, yeah, I think it would be fine."

That is the goal. Proponents say reusable bags reduce landfill waste and the hidden energy costs associated with both paper and plastic disposable bags.

"They are major contributors to litter and there's a lot of resources that go into both producing them and recycling them," said Jennifer Garnett with the Environmental Services Department.

As it's proposed the ordinance would affect all retail businesses from mom and pop stores to well-known chains.

The initial concept is that only takeout food would be exempt. There was a meeting Wednesday afternoon to explain the ordinance and to get the public's input.

Small business owner David Giordano says the bag fee would hurt him and his customers during an already tough time.

"They're going to have to run out to the car and get their little bag. They're not going to do it and to impose that on the business owner is just another nail in the coffin," said Giordano.

Environmental Services says at least five cents of the bag fee would go to the businesses for their work administering the program. The rest of the money would be for education and litter abatement.

"A reminder that our goals are to decrease litter, to conserve the natural resources associated with the bags themselves and fundamentally to encourage shopping with reusable bags here in our community," said Melody Tovar with the Environmental Services Department.

There is another public meeting Thursday night. A council committee will decide next week where the ordinance goes from here.