Reusable bags will be a Cupertino staple when shopping come Oct. 1, as the plastic bag ban ordinance passed at the Cupertino City council meeting Jan. 15.
Mayor Orrin Mahoney felt the bag-ban wagons circling as city after city in the Bay Area is banning plastic bags—neighboring Los Altos being taking up the question most recently—and voted to pass the ordinance along with full-throated “yes” votes from councilmembers Barry Chang and Rod Sinks. Councilmember Mark Santoro was initially against the ban, and Councilmember Gilbert Wong was on the fence about it.
“I think its time to do it, because we're gonna do it. I didn't want to be on the bleeding edge, you know, because I'm not convinced it's really gonna make a big deal; it's a little bit of a fad thing,” Mahoney said. “I also think we're gonna do this, you know, if we don't do it now, we're gonna do it in a year.”
The push to ban plastic bags is based on a water agency requirement to get municipalities to reduce trash in waterways by 40 percent by 2014, 70 percent by 2017, and 100 percent by 2022.
“From my point of view, I'm for the ban,” Chang said. “We have to meet the state requirement for the environment.”
The well-attended hot-topic meeting included students from Monta Vista High School with about 40 speakers who voiced concerns for and against the proposal.
One side argued Stevens Creek trails and parks are full of litter, and plastic can linger in the environment for years. Billions of oil is used in the production of plastic bags, and the fee for a paper bag is a small price to pay in reducing litter and saving marine life, they pointed out.
Another point was the ban is consistent within the area, as San Jose, Sunnyvale, and surrounding cities have a ban or are starting one soon. Other municipalities that have passed bag bans chose Earth Day—April 22—as the first day of the ban.
Those against the ban argued it infringes on citizen rights and punishes everyone for the bad behaviors of a few. Also mentioned was the term “single-use” being misleading, pointing out stores such as Ikea sell plastic bag storage containers because people save them.
Cross contamination with reusable bags and the bacteria transferred on the conveyer belt at the cash register was a concern by those against the bag ban.
“I'm a firm believer in people trying to save the environment, but I'm struggling with the plastic bag ban,” Santoro said. “When I do get a plastic bag, I try to reuse them whether they're for other types of waste or even bagging other stuff.”
After over an hour of listening to the public’s pros and cons the council ultimately voted unanimously in favor of the ban.
“We actually have widespread community support for recycling, reusing the containers that we use to bring our food and other items home,” Sinks said.
Sinks reckons the city should hold contests for local artists in designing reusable bags.
Mahoney said he had a gut feeling to not ban plastic bags, and that it's not really clear it's solving a problem for Cupertino, but he felt it was something that needs to be done.
Read more about the bag ban coverage:
Council Inches Toward Plastic Bag Ban