Ordinance will be formally adopted next month
The Ukiah City Council Wednesday unanimously approved introducing a ban on disposable plastic bags used by grocery stores and other businesses -- but restaurants will still be able to use them.
"It is clear the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition intends to sue any municipality that passes an ordinance including restaurants," said Mike Sweeney, manager of the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority, who prepared the draft Environmental Impact Report for the ban.
Cities such as San Francisco and Santa Cruz were sued over bans including restaurants by Stephen Joseph, who commented on the draft EIR for Ukiah's ordinance and argued that restaurants should be allowed to use plastic bags for carryout food because they are waterproof and greaseproof, can be tightly tied, and can contain spills, often of hot liquids.
"I am happy to report that the City of San Francisco is fighting that issue, and at the time when it is concluded (successfully), you can choose to pursue including restaurants," Sweeney said, adding that he just picked up a Taco Bell bag on the street that morning. "This is truly an issue that won't go away."
"I am thrilled we're at this point," said Mayor Mary Anne Landis, describing the effort to establish the ban as a "great collaboration with (Mendocino County) and Fort Bragg," and asking Sweeney if the City of Willits was also instituting a ban.
"Willits is thinking about it," he said.
"This is a great start in cleaning up our environment -- it really seems this is a non-controversial issue at this point," said Mendocino County Board of Supervisors chairman John McCowen, responding to one person who wrote the council to say there "isn't a plastic litter problem. That person isn't really looking. There are bits of plastic strung from every bush and tree (down by the creeks)."
"Plastic bags are getting into our rivers constantly," agreed resident Linda Sanders, explaining that local groups such as the Friends of Gibson Creek would "never be able to keep up" with the amount of litter created by discarded plastic bags.
"I hope we cheer for San Francisco, and as soon as it wins that case I hope we amend our ordinance to include restaurant bags," said Council member Phil Baldwin, who lobbied to include restaurants in the ordinance, which is now referred to as the "disposable bag reduction" ordinance.
The ordinance bans the use of disposable plastic bags by businesses -- excluding "public eating establishments that receive 90 percent or more of their revenue from the sale of prepared food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages" -- and requires them to charge at least 10 cents to customers for a large paper bag. Small paper bags would be exempt.
The council then voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance, and is expected to formally adopt it at its next meeting May 2.