Southern California environment news and trends

San Mateo County moves closer to single-use plastic bag ban

Glendale Considers Ban On Plastic Bags

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In the ongoing movement to make single-use plastic bags a thing of the past, the city of Menlo Park is just one of the latest to consider banning them outright. According to the Patch, Menlo Park is among 24 cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties currently considering such a plastic bag ban, with San Mateo County releasing a draft Environmental Impact Report on June 22. Like many other plastic bag ban proposals, bags used for produce and meat would not be affected.

“I did not see any surprises in the draft EIR, and the one thing we need to keep in mind that this is by no means final. We’re still in the draft stage,” said Dean Peterson, the Environmental Health Director of San Mateo County by phone. “Based on the results, there were a number of impacts that would be beneficial, and they’ll definitely aid in getting the ban through.”

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Green party: Happy World Environment Day 2012!

Today (June 5th) marks the 40th observance of World Environment Day, established by the United Nations to celebrate environmental action and awareness. As reported by the Huffington Post, this year’s theme is ‘Green economy: Does it include you?’ The UN Environment Programme defines the green economy “as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”

The host country for this year’s World Environment Day is Brazil, culminating in the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development happening there later this month.

Locally, eco-positive organizations like Environment California are very supportive of World Environment Day, but hope it leads to more people taking action in their everyday lives that benefit the world around us.

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Keeping your reusable shopping bags bacteria-free

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California has become quite the battleground for single-use plastic bags. Just this week, Solana Beach became the first city in San Diego County to ban their use in grocery stores, restaurants and other retailers.

While there are factions adamantly fighting to keep plastic bags in circulation (most notably the Plastic Bag Coalition), many Californians — especially the enlightened minds who read “Pacific Swell” — have already made the switch to reusable shopping bags. The Huffington Post, however, reminds us that simply having a supply of tote bags at the ready is not enough. It’s just as important to keep them clean.

The Post goes on to roll out some sobering statistics, like a recent study revealing that only 15 percent of North Americans routinely wash their reusable bags. The story further emphasizes the point with a 2010 report that found E. coli bacteria in 12 percent of randomly tested tote bags across three cities, including Los Angeles. More than half of the bags tested positive for coliform bacteria, which you don’t want anywhere near your food. Trust me.

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San Mateo County ready to ban plastic bags

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Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Taking a cue from the current battle being waged in San Francisco over plastic bags, San Mateo Country is arranging for an outside firm to conduct a full environmental impact report before moving forward on their own bag-banning legislation.

As we reported earlier this week, a coalition of plastic bag manufacturers filed suit against San Francisco for adopting an ordinance outlawing the use of plastic bags at most retail establishments. The Save The Plastic Bag Coalition is suing on the grounds that the city did so without conducting an environmental study and claiming exemption.

According to the Mercury News, the initial San Mateo draft ban would only apply to establishments in unincorporated areas, but a wide range of cities in the county have already said they would be open to considering similar bans.

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Plastic bag coalition fights back at San Francisco ban

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In 2007, San Francisco was the first city in America to ban those pesky (and ubiquitous) plastic bags. Targeting large supermarkets and chain drugstores, the ban was expanded earlier this year to include a wider range of retailers and impose a 10-cent tax on all outgoing single bags. Plastic bag manufacturers have had enough.

As reported by Courthouse News Service, the Plastic Bag Coalition (made up of big plastic bag producers like Crown Poly) is asking the city of San Francisco to invalidate the entire law banning single-use plastic bags, claiming that it violates the California Environmental Quality Act and the California Retail Food Code, among other complaints.

“A 10-cent fee is, or may be, far too low to act as an effective incentive to promote the use of reusable bags,” argued attorney Steve Joseph in the motion filed last week on behalf of the Save The Plastic Bag Coalition and reported in Huffington Post. “No one will carry a reusable bag with them for unplanned impulse buying. Very few people will carry a reusable bag to Macy’s or other department stores to save a dime.”

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