Ordinance up for final adoption in December
The Arcata City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags, but delay the 10-cent charge for paper bags for six months to allow time for a positive reusable bag campaign.
“I really think that this is the way we need to go,” Councilwoman Alex Stillman said. “I just think that we should just step up to the plate and make this hard call and see how it turns out.” Under the ordinance, which will be brought back at the next council meeting for final adoption, plastic bags would be prohibited at supermarkets, pharmacies, retail businesses and convenience food stores. Produce, meat, bulk, gift, donated and bags provided for prescription medications and those smaller than 625 cubic inches would be exempt.
A paper bag made of at least 40 percent post-consumer recyclable materials would be offered for 10 cents, and the money would be kept by the retailer. Participants in the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program would be given a paper bag at no cost.
The ordinance was reintroduced after staff made substantial changes based on feedback from merchants.
Many people spoke in favor of the ordinance and the fee on Wednesday.
“You could charge me 25 cents a bag, I really don’t care,” South Samoa resident Paul Patino said. “I’m shopping in Arcata. I appreciate the 10 cent bag charge. It will remind me that I’m wasting money by not bringing a bag. I totally support it.” Willow Sportswear owner Gordon Townsend spoke against the fee.
“What is being asked is that we, the business people, become the instruments of your will,” he said. “We’re the ones having to relate with customers.” Staff said the fee is necessary for legal reasons.
“The charge for a paper bag is a critical structure of this ordinance,” Environmental Services Director Mark Andre said. “It’s an essential part of the negative declaration, the CEQA document. We feel a charge has to be part of this to be resistant to legal challenges.” In a Nov. 19 letter to the council, the California Grocer’s Association wrote that it would like to see the plastic bag ban and charge be implemented on the same date.
“We are concerned the phased implementation of the charge on paper bags will require consumers to change habits twice — once from single-use plastic to single-use paper and a second time from single-use paper bags to reusable bag use,” wrote Timothy James, the manger for local government relations.“This doublechange will be confusing for consumers and require extra effort for retailers.” If council approves the final adoption, the ordinance will take effect on Feb. 1, 2014, and the 10-cent mandatory fee will be implemented on Aug. 1, 2014.
The council will meet again on Dec. 4 for its regularly scheduled meeting.