Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego OKs Plastic Bag Ban

San Diego OKs Plastic Bag Ban
The ordinance banning single-use plastic bags from most grocery and drugs stores was passed 6-3. Environmental groups praised the ordinance as an important step toward reducing waste in landfills.
San Diego OKs Plastic Bag Ban
San Diego OKs Plastic Bag Ban GUEST: Roger Kube, advisory committee member, Surfrider Foundation San Diego County chapter

By a vote of 63 -- six 62 623 -- and make San Diego the 150th city in California to ban the use of plastic bags for grocery. Why has the city down this when there is a state proposition on the ballot that would impose the same ban on plastic bags? That's one question I asked my guest Roger Kube he advising member of the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider has been a big advocate of the plastic bag ban, tell us what this San Diego ordinance will do. This ordinance will remove 95% of the 700 million single use plastic grocery bags, checkout bags that are distributed every year. Having 660 Having 660 million checkout bags removed will have an impact on the plastic pollution issue that we face. How long will supermarkets in the public have to comply? The city of San Diego's ordinance have a phase-in period. Certain stores or six months and others are 12 months, after the second reading of this ordinance in two weeks. There's a $.10 to be as part of this ordinance. If you ask for a paper bag in a grocery store, you are not going to be getting plastic bags, if you don't shop with your own. How does that $.10 fee impact low income residents? There are some exclusions in the ordinance for Wick recipient -- recipients. They won't have to pay the $.10 fee. Organizations like ourselves, city of San Diego will continue to do reasonable bag giveaways -- reusable bag giveaways. There's a lot of inexpensive, free reusable bags given away at different places. The city ordinance provides the opportunity for stores for up to a 90 day period to give away reusable bags. A committee recently approved to this plastic bag ban back in 2013, why did it take so long to adopt it? Great question. Once the committee directed city staff to draft the ordinance and do the necessary environmental review. That got started, in the interim mayor Faulconer, in the spring or early 2014, he did put a halt on the environmental review process. We found that out in the spring of 2014 and asked why that was done. He responded that he wanted to save taxpayers in the city money, rightfully so. The state bag ban was currently in the legislative session at that time. Our concern was that this is -- that was the sixth or seventh time it was in legislature. The environmental review process did happen, ones that ban was put on hold, due to the referendum in the resources and money was spent to have our own ordinance. Do you think San Diego leaders made a mistake postponing the ban? We think so. Had the environmental review process continued and we had an ordinance prior to our governor signing the ban, we would have full control, we would not be preempted. Having control of this policy allows us to decide how maybe future amendments would look to the ordinance versus being at the will of the entire state. If voters aren't deciding on a ban in November, why does San Diego need its own ban now? It goes back to the city of San Diego shutting the leadership -- showing the leadership to make the decision for ourselves and not last -- left the rest of the state decide. Were really excited that the city of San Diego did take control of this process. We support the state bag ban. This will provide a lot of momentum going into November, with the largest city in the state that did not have a bag ban, now having one. That will provide momentum to ensure that the state bag ban passes. The Councilman Mark Kersey, Chris Cate and Scott Sherman voted against the ban. They said it was a government overreach and Scott Sherman said the city Shannon for some laws already on the books, to address littering. What's your response? I think it's philosophical, whether or not it's government reaching too far into our business. I'd like to use the example of smoking. There's a lot of people up in arms with smoking laws, that passed over the last 20 years to prohibit it. Plastic pollution is well documented as an issue from an environmental issue -- standpoint and health standpoint. It's getting back into our food stream to fish. I compare this to leaded gasoline. Sometimes the government needs to take control. Why doesn't this ban extend to department stores? We would love to see it effective to all retailers. From a stakeholder standpoint, the city of San Diego felt that they were knocking out a certain portion and will be able to get this passed with little resistance, which we did. The opposition would be much greater. The two propositions that revolve around banning plastic grocery bags, prop 67 which would affirm the statewide ban on plastic bags, there is prop 65 which is backed by the plastic manufacturing industry and would redirect money from paper bags, that $.10 fee to conservation organizations. Given that you are in an environmentally organization what your stance on prop 65? Let's make sure that we say yes on prop 67 to uphold the state bag ban. As it relates to prop 65, this was put on the ballot by the plastics industry. They spent a lot of money to do this. Our organization and other environmental organizations consider this a ploy, brought about to confuse voters, frustrate grocery or divide the business and environmental community. It's just a distraction for the larger issue of supporting prop 67 in uphold California's land back -- landmark single use law. Any idea when this local bag ban will go into effect? The city of San Diego and will go into effect six months after the second reading, the first Tuesday of August, six months after that. Certainly, by the beginning of next year. Yes. I've been speaking with Roger Kube E, and advisory committee member of the Surfrider Foundation.

The San Diego City Council approved a ban on plastic shopping bags Tuesday, making it the 150th jurisdiction in the state of California to pass such a law.

The Single-Use Carryout Bag Reduction Ordinance was passed 6-3, with Councilmen Scott Sherman, Mark Kersey and Chris Cate casting the dissenting votes.

"San Diego can now take a leadership role in limiting plastic bag use and reducing plastic pollution," Council President Sherri Lightner said. "As we can see from other cities, the benefits are real, and it can be done without burdening our businesses or our most vulnerable residents."

More than 20 community members urged the council to approve the ban. There were only two speakers against the ordinance.

"The vast majority of plastic bags we see are entangled in the brushes next to our rivers and streams. After every rain event, these bags clog and choke our city's already damaged waterways," Kristin Kuhn of San Diego Coastkeeper said. "During especially high rainfall events, these bags are pushed out of our inland environments straight to the ocean or bay."

A City Council committee first heard the plastic bag ordinance in the fall of 2013. The committee asked the measure to be forwarded to the full City Council, but Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office put it on hold to avoid duplicating state legislation that was gaining ground at the time. That legislation passed, but was forced to a referendum by a signature-gathering drive funded by plastic bag manufacturers. It will appear as Proposition 67 on the November ballot.

Roger Kube, a volunteer with the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said passing the local ban earlier would have given the city more authority to amend or expand the ordinance.

"We really lost control of our own destiny a couple years ago when the mayor's office decided to wait for the state bag ban to pass," Kube said at a press conference prior to the city council vote. "However at the same time we're certainly excited to see this being voted on today. If the state bag ban doesn't go through in November at the ballot box, we'll still have a bag ordinance."

Reducing waste

The ordinance is intended to help reduce the estimated 700 million single-use plastic bags that are distributed in San Diego each year. Around 3 percent of the plastic bags used each year in California are being recycled.

"I think us doing this now doesn't really solve anything and it doesn't really accomplish anything," Kersey said, referring to a statewide plastic bag ban proposition that is expected to pass in November.

The city's plastic bag reduction ordinance includes a ban on all single-use carryout plastic bags at select point-of-sale retail locations; a 10-cent charge for paper bags; exemptions for restaurants, newspaper delivery and bags for transporting produce, meat, poultry, dry-cleaning or laundry; and exemptions for those participating in the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Nonprofit vendors are exempt for the first year. There's a six-month grace period before enforcement for pharmacy and grocery retail locations, and a one-year grace period for all others.

If approved on second reading in two weeks, the ordinance would go into effect 30 to 40 days later.

"We want to see fewer plastic bags in the landfill(s), as well as a cleaner landscape citywide," Mario Sierra, director of the city's environmental services department, said in his presentation to the council. "This includes making sure our waterways, our creeks and storm drains are not polluted with plastic bags."

Groups supporting the ordinance include the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, California Grocers Association, Californians Against Waste, Environment California, Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper, the League of Women Voters of San Diego, Sierra Club of San Diego, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Equinox Project, Ocean Beach Town Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and Save Our Shores.