Bag Ban Passed With Trepidation

Though the vote was unanimous, the council was not convinced a ban is the best solution.

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


Frank Geefay January 23, 2013 at 10:09 PM
The city of Cupertino is behind on environmental issues. City Council reflects this attitude with 2 strong proponents for the environment, Barry Chang and Rod Sinks and 3 not very much concerned about the environment. Cupertino is surrounded by cities far more progressive about the environment. Perhaps residents are focused upon education to the exclusion of everything else. It is about time that Cupertino residents and Council join the growing number of cities in being more concerned about the environment in which we all live.
Bob M January 23, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Frank, I do not know where you are coming from on this. Simply look at other cities and see of you find an organic waste (kitchen) recyclables, a compost distribution system, an almost daily electronics waste recycling, scheduled and on-call hazardous waste recycling and many other environmental programs. Other large cities don't even have the basic glass and bottle recycling in place. I agree with the three council members that think the single-use plastic bag ban is a band-aid type, feel-good ordinance that will have little effect other than some visual pollution. The are other things that will have a much bigger effect. I think you are off the mark on this.
Frank Geefay January 24, 2013 at 06:57 AM
I am speaking on the broader issue of the environment than just banning single use plastic bag or recycling bins. I know and have spoken to all but one council member on environmental issues. I also referenced only cities around Cupertino. Name some large cities in California that "don't even have the basic glass and bottle recycling in place." I think that even most small cities now have recycling programs like Cupertino. Most certainly all cities in the Bay Area do.
Joseph Sze January 28, 2013 at 11:08 PM
I am in a citizens group called stopthebagban.com I have shopped out side of San Jose ever since the bag ban. The stores in other cities are better anyways. When Cupertino had he meeting I went to speak with the other members of the group. I noticed in the meeting that actually four councilmembers are personally against the full letter of the ordinance including Barry Chang even though he supported banning plastic since two years ago he strongly disagree with the fee on paper and the recordkeeping which brings much burden for the local businesses. Though thru the strong hypotenizing, threatening, scare tactics, and cuteness used by the Sierra Club and Savethebay is just too hard to resist. I am in a citizens group stopthebagban.com and we say its time to collect signatures and let the city know what the citizens that elect and pay taxes want. fyi neighboring city of Santa Clara and Saratoga are smart enough to resistant the temptation and peer pressure to jump in the fad. they even turned down the offer to join San Mateo County's EIR for no charge. These cities should be role models for Cupertino as they firmly believe that the decision should be made at the state level and not at the local level. The local cities should pay more attention to garbage collection and street cleaning efficiency.
Frank Geefay February 03, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Sorry I missed this latest posting. Banning single use plastic bags is not about dirty streets. It is about plugged storm drains and harm to the environment. It is also a mandated by the Water District. Any city in our region not implementing a ban on plastic bags starting 2014 will be stiffly fined. There is no choice. It is the law. The law will get tougher thereafter. So if Stopthebagban wants to stop the ban they must lobby to change the law. Good luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco have had plastic bag bans for a while. There is State legislation that is being proposed to ban bags statewide in our now Democratic super-majority environmentally friendlier legislature. This is not a local issue and a rapidly growing statewide movement. It is only time before there is a statewide ban.
Frank Geefay February 03, 2013 at 08:18 PM
I know Barry Chang and assure you that he strongly advocate for the ban on plastic bags regardless of what you think you heard. He is a very strong environmentalist and would not oppose such a ban. I can't speak to his stand on charging money for paper bags but his stand on banning plastic bags is absolute. Barry is a person least susceptible to threats and intimidation from anyone. If you know him you should know that. He is the founder and chairman of the Bay Area for Clean Environment. Does that sound like a person who would not willingly agree with the Sierra Club and Savethebay?
Joseph Sze February 05, 2013 at 04:13 AM
I believe in this case cities should just take their hands off this issue and let the state decide. The state's proposed ban only affect supermarket chains with greater than $2 million gross annual income which are the ones generating most bags and does not require charge nor record keeping on paper. I hope cities would rescind their much more ridiculous far reaching bans and ordinances if this is ever passed. Our merchandize prices are skyrocketing these days and made worse as chains large and small have to purchase different bags to meet all these different ordinances across the state. I guess you are severely misinformed about water district The Santa Clara county water district(the agency delivering tap water) is not the ones pushing for the ban. If you mean the Regional Water quality Control board, it requires total reduction in waste in the water in a graduated goal scale 40% by 2014, 70% by 2017 etc therefore it is about total waste it does NOT require banning bags. The board once gave cities a 12% head start for banning bags however in the Jan 15 meeting it has been declared that it is no longer giving cities a 12% bribe for doing so. Therefore the ordinance is only going to gain the city less than 1% in the scale of the requirement. Therefore city of Santa Clara has chosen more smarter ways to meet the requirement.
Joseph Sze February 05, 2013 at 04:23 AM
Cupertino is surprisingly much cleaner than neighboring San Jose and Sunnyvale despite having a large immigrant population and not yet a bag ban in fact there is not even a single litter ordinance in the city. Its easy to know when San Jose or Sunnyvale starts by looking at the trash plastic and otherwise piling along the side of the streets, freeways, and lots. The streets around my neighborhood even though it is a quiet low density neighborhood on the hills still have litter scattered along the side of the road and on isolated pockets of road piles of residential refuge as big as sofas and broken big screen television sets lay on the middle of the road for months. San Jose is completely doing this as a feel good initiative which does nothing to improve its blight problems. Just like gun control advocates pushing for banning one kind of gun every time a shooting happens does nothing to reduce gun violence. The San Jose ban is a joke in it self many stores in sketchy east of downtown areas operate with no regard to city ordinances with impunity they just dump piles of waste and waste water whereever. Not a single citation was handed out last year making it one of those many unenforced ordinances in the city. Just like the ban the on otherwise state approved firework use on July 4th. It only there to frustrate law abiding businesses and consumers in the city with enormous burden with cost of replacing bags and record keeping.
Joseph Sze February 05, 2013 at 04:43 AM
I am not saying Barry is standing against Sierra Club and Save the bay. I attended the Jan 15 meeting and heard from Barry Chung himself. While he is clearly a supporter for banning plastic bags since two years ago he had clearly expressed that the ordinance's recordkeeping is putting too much of a burden for businesses when asked by staff he also against price tag setting for small businesses. I am sure he wants a ban on plastic bags that is just like a ban on polystyrene with non of the other recordkeeping nor minimum price nonsense for non polystyrene containers. fyi It is not Sierra Club or SOurBay that push for mandatory fees and recordkeeping or the ban to cover more than supermarkets but the lawsuit welding plastic industry and grocery association wanting fair treatment complaining being singled out. Cupertino should really consider doing its own EIR according to their city's own interests and not be controlled by San Mateo County. Los Altos is considering twicking the EIR. An EIR for a city the size of Cupertino should cost no more than a set of traffic lights. Or best of all leave the decision to the state.
Murky News February 05, 2013 at 04:46 PM
This is nanny-state bad law. Based on lies and distortions about a mythical scourge of plastic bags, it punishes everyone for the bad behavior of a few. You could make the same case for virtually anything. The city council was bullied and pressured into passing a citizen control law against their will. This is an abuse of the democratic system. The public should get to vote on this. No city in the south bay has gotten to vote, yet many cities instituted these bans against the will of their people. In fact, they never even quote public polls because THEY DON'T WANT TO. It is a crime that they just need to brainwash and pressure a few council members, and hundreds of thousands of citizens lose their freedom. There will be a petition drive to allow the people of Cupertino cast votes on this. Let’s let Cupertino be the FIRST city where the people actually vote on this. Doesn’t that seem fair?
Bob M February 05, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Given the opportunity to vote on this, I would vote to ban plastic bags. I have hated them every since I first saw them in Southeast Asia in the 60s. They were an eyesore and created the same litter problem there that we have had for decades after they started being used here. I think shopping bags are the perfect use for recycled paper. And, we do generate enough other paper products to recycle into shopping bags. As to the cost, the retailers were already factoring in their cost of bags in their sales, why do we have to pay another 10 cents per?
JCS February 06, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Bob makes a good point. Even people supporting bans on plastic bags they expect a simple no strings attacked ban similar to the ban on polystrene in San Francisco and Oakland. Even Barry himself oppose the restrictions, recordkeeping, and worse of all mandatory product price gauging on non banned bags. A polystyrene ban on the other hand does not in any affect on alternatives and does not charge a fee. Essentially the plastic bag ban goes well beyond and evolves into an all "free" at checkout bag ban. Though it is also far reaching on stating that free bags are allowed elsewhere in the store just not at checkout. It is like they are saying only checkout bags are causing problems targeted by the ban but not the bags elsewhere. Nothing seems to make sense other than a complete abuse of power.


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