Alameda County plastic bag ban begins Tuesday

December 31, 2012 7:36:06 PM PST
Anyone heading to the grocery store in Alameda County Tuesday will notice a change. New Year's Day marks the end of the plastic bag in stores there. This type of ban is becoming a growing trend around the Bay Area and across the nation.

There's some debate about just how well those bans in places like San Francisco are working, in terms of that environmental benefit. That said, most people we talked with Monday think it's a good idea, if they can just remember to bring their own bags.

The sign on the door says it all at a Safeway in Oakland -- starting New Year's Day, no more plastic bags at the checkout stand.

"It's a good law, it's a good law," Oakland resident Tony Zuniga said. "People just don't care. They throw garbage on the streets, so I'm glad it is law."

But others argue Alameda County's new ordinance, which bans plastic and requires a dime charge on paper bags, puts an unfair burden on the poor.

"We need those plastic bags," Oakland resident Marie Brown said. "A lot of people don't bring bags. Stop in from work to pick up a few things, I forgot my bag at home, what are they going to do, pay ten cents per bag? It's a hardship for some people, ten cents adds up."

Fellow Oakland resident Prudence Slaathaug adds, "It will be a new habit, but I think it will be difficult in the beginning, but eventually I think it will be something everyone accepts."

At Village Market on Broadway Terrace, plastic bags have been passé now for four years, in favor of heavy paper with handles.

"At the time, Oakland was looking at an ordinance themselves and so we were just trying to stay ahead of the curve and get rid of the plastic bags, and of course it's terrible for the environment, so we thought it was good," said Keith Trimble with Village Market.

Oakland resident Leslie Burton adds, "They say there's an island of plastic bags floating around in the ocean somewhere and I don't want to contribute to that."

Beth Terry wrote a book about living a plastic free life. She thinks the type of reusable bag that folds into a tiny satchel could solve a lot of the issues around bring-your-own, noting, "So that I'm never without a reusable bag, I never forget them."

If you do forget a bag, paper bags will be available for a dime each. The bag fee will be waived for those paying for their groceries with food stamps.

51 other cities and counties in California including San Jose, San Francisco, and San Mateo already impose bans on plastic bags.