Cupertino could soon join the growing list of Silicon Valley cities banning plastic bags, and those who have an opinion on the topic are invited to speak up at two public meetings next week.
Intended for businesses, the first meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Quinlan Community Center. The second meeting for interested residents is Wednesday, Jan. 9 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The City requests RSVPs by registering via email at Environmental@Cupertino.org with the subject line “Bag Meeting RSVP”. If you don’t have email access call the public works department at 408-777-3354.
The City Council will consider the issue at its Jan. 15 meeting.
Cupertino joined 25 local agencies in an Environmental Impact Review (a copy of the report is attached to this article) for a regional reusable bag ordinance. San Mateo County voted unanimously in November to adopt an ordinance against single-use carryout bags that takes effect April 22. (San Mateo County’s entire ordinance can be found here: Reusable Bag Ordinance.)
The proposal Cupertino is considering is similar to those passed in San Jose and Sunnyvale that requires all retail establishments to charge 10 cents for paper bags or durable multi-use bags. Non-profit organizations, such as Goodwill, and restaurants would be exempt. Protective plastic bags used for meat and produce at grocery stores would be exempt as well.
A study conducted by San Mateo County Environmental Health found that 552,931,362 plastic bags were used annually in the study area, which includes Cupertino and surrounding cities.
Some benefits of reducing the amount of single-use bags in the city were presented to the Council in August by Laura Kasa, Executive Director of Save Our Shores who said she coordinates 250 creek, river, and beach cleanups every year, which prevents about 30 pounds of trash from going into the ocean.
The group’s data over five years showed that its efforts prevented 30,000 plastic bags 46,000 pieces of Styrofoam from heading out to sea where they could wind up in a giant trash vortex swirling in the Pacific Ocean.
There are those who plead to keep plastic bags in use at retailers saying they use those bags over and over again before they get tossed, meaning plastic bags shouldn't be labeled as "single use".
John Zirelli, General Manager for Recology, the city’s recycling service, said the company would support the ordinance but recommended a three to four-year phase in period to allow the business community time to adjust.
A phase-in period for San Mateo County’s ordinance includes a time period during which retailers may only make available to customers recycled paper bags or reusable bags at a minimum charge of 10 cents. Following that there is a period during which retailers must charge a minimum of 25 cents for recycled paper bags or reusable bags.
Retailers in violation—those that provide single-use bags—will face fines starting at $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second violation and up to $500 for the third and any subsequent violations.
Read more about paper vs. plastic bags in Cupertino in these related articles:
The Paper Vs. Plastic Bag Fight: Does Canvas Win?
A single-use ban fact sheet is attached to this article.