Feb 7 - Bag Ban Battle Heats Up Over Restaurants

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The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors met today to discuss removing restaurants from its single-use bag ordinance.

The ordinance, passed last September, included all retail stores and 85 food establishments in the unincorporated County areas. Plastic bags were banned but paper bags were allowed for an initial 10 cents each, except in restaurants where they could be distributed free of charge.

The County’s bag ordinance is one of the few to have included restaurants thus far. Other local governments with restaurant bag bans include the City of Manhattan Beach, which famously won a plastic industry lawsuit in the California Supreme Court last summer, and the City of Fairfax, which has been successfully implementing its bag ordinance since 2008.

Perhaps fearful of a growing trend, the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition filed a lawsuit last October against the Santa Cruz County, zeroing in on the inclusion of restaurants in the ban.

In a meeting today, the Board moved forward to temporarily exempt restaurants in order to avoid a lawsuit. See the amended ordinance and counsel letter on the settlement negotiation here.

The Board will have a final vote on the changes on February 14. The ordinance will go into effect on March 20. Read more in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Without a doubt the plastic industry is getting desperate in its efforts to stop the increasing tide of stronger bag bans. Even with scare tactics about the supposedly "burn-protecting" qualities of plastic bags and bacteria found in reusable bags, we will continue to see more proposals being passed with strong ordinance language.

Case in point--San Francisco, another prominent player in the local bag ban arena, is considering an expansion of its 2007 ordinance to include restaurants later this afternoon. Read more in yesterday’s blog and stay tuned on our website for updates. Down south, several Orange County jurisdictions have also included restaurants as well as other retail stores in their proposed plastic bag bans.

Take action on single-use bag ordinances here.