Customers react as San Jose bans plastic bags

January 1, 2012 6:51:49 PM PST
There are new rules for shoppers and merchants in San Jose as a plastic bag ban took effect at midnight on Sunday.

With plastic bags out of the picture, some will turn to paper bags, but that will come with a cost. Not everyone is happy about the change.

Over the years, environmental groups have attacked the use of plastic shopping bags because most are not biodegradable. Environmentalists say the bags can choke up waterways and they're dangerous to some birds.

The new ordinance is being greeted with mixed reviews by residents.

"I think it's a good thing," said shopper Ronald Gardiner. "I ride a motorcycle usually, and I can't tell you how many times I've had to dodge bags floating along the freeway."

But Matthew Wilson isn't thrilled about the new law.

"I've used plastic bags my whole life," Wilson said. "I rely on them. I throw my garbage out with them. I think it stinks that they're taking them away."

The new ordinance bans all retailers from using plastic bags, going farther than other ordinances in cities like San Francisco which only targets plastic bags at larger chain retailers.

As some San Jose residents learned on their receipts, they will be charged 10 cents if they decide they want paper bags at the check stand.

"I use self check-out," said Gardiner. "They got an option on there where you can push "no bag," and if you're going to use a bag I guess they're going to charge you."

The charge of paper bags is intended to steer customers toward reusable bags, but some shoppers decided not to use a bag at all.

"But I happened to leave my bags in the vehicle," said shopper Jesse Herrera. "You're probably right. I didn't want to pay those 10 cents."

This is a ban that the California Grocers Association is not that thrilled about, but in their words, it's very workable. A spokesman for the Grocer's Association says the San Jose plastic bag ban is modeled after proposed state legislation they supported last year.

The spokesperson says it's fair because all retailers are affected, but added the 10 cent charge per paper bag is different than the San Francisco ban, which he said had minimal environmental benefit.

"What they found is that grocery store operators just shifted from plastic to paper," said spokesman David Heylen.

The ban proposes an interesting situation for the Westfield Valley Fair Mall as two-thirds of the mall is located in San Jose with the rest located in Santa Clara. Mall management has encouraged the entire mall to go along with the San Jose plastic bag ban.