EIR Release Wraps Plastic Bag Ban Impacts Together

A draft of the proposed Environmental Impact Report will help cities such as Cupertino decide about banning single-use bags.

Editor's note: A review of plastic vs. paper vs. canvas bags ran on Cupertino Patch on June 8 and can be found here: .

A movement to ban plastic bags at retail stores in the County of San Mateo and 24 other cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties—including Cupertino—continues to move forward.

San Mateo County has released a draft of a mandated Environmental Impact Report, which assesses the impact the proposed Single Use Bag Ban Ordinance would create. Once the EIR is complete—expected in October 2012—the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether or not to approve the ordinance.

The proposal is meant to eliminate single-use bags. Restaurants would be excluded from the ban. Additionally, produce bags and bags that hold prescription medication would be exempted.

If passed by the Supervisors, the ordinance would impose a 10 cent fee for for each recycled paper and reusable bag distributed by stores at the point of sale until Dec. 31, 2014; beginning January 1, 2015, the charge would increasee to 25 cents per paper bag.

According to the San Mateo County Health Department website:

  • 20 billion single-use plastic grocery bags are used every year in California.
  • Most end up in landfills, or as litter on land and in water. 
  • Researchers have well-documented the harmful impact to our environment and wildlife caused by one-use plastic bags.
  • Plastic never biodegrades; instead it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that seep into our soil and water.
  • A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that only 4.3 percent of bags end up being recycled and a single-use paper bag has an even larger greenhouse gas emission than plastic bags.

A single public hearing on the draft report of the EIR will be held by the San Mateo County Planning Commission on July 11 at 9 a.m. in 400 County Center in Redwood City.

You are also encouraged to submit written comments to envhealth@smcgov.org through the close of business on Aug. 6.

Here's a rundown of the cities in the two counties participating in the EIR:

Santa Clara County

  • Milpitas
  • Cupertino
  • Los Gatos
  • Los Altos
  • Campbell
  • Mountain View

San Mateo County

  • Brisbane
  • Belmont
  • Burlingame
  • Colma
  • Daly City
  • East Palo Alto
  • Foster City
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Menlo Park
  • Millbrae
  • Pacifica
  • Portola Valley
  • Redwood City
  • San Bruno
  • San Carlos
  • San Mateo
  • South San Francisco
  • Woodside
Frank Geefay July 04, 2012 at 07:16 PM
EIR's have already been done in cities such as San Jose that demonstrate the adverse effects of single use plastic bag to our environment and the clogging of storm drainage systems. More EIR’s will essentially say the same. How did mankind survive before plastic or even paper bags came into common use? People used reusable canvas bags or natural woven fiber baskets. If it was good enough for our parents then why shouldn’t it be adequate for us? Convenience has made us extremely wasteful and the plastic bag industry abundantly rich. It makes us more dependent upon foreign and domestic oil used to synthesize plastic. So what are we waiting for? It will eventually start being mandated in 2014. What’s the point in waiting until the mandate? The earlier we start the better it will be for the environment and reduced clogged storm drains. It will also save us money. 20 billion single use plastic bags a year is a lot of garbage.


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