Santa Cruz, California Bans Plastic Bags, Polystyrene

Santa Cruz, California Bans Plastic Bags, Polystyrene

Plastic Bags Nixed At All Retailers | Plastic Bag Ban Report
SANTA CRUZ, California, July 15, 2012 (ENS) - The City of Santa Cruz has banned single-use plastic bags and foam products. In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the City Council placed a ban on plastic bags that will take effect in nine months.

Under the ban, retailers, including grocery stores, will not be able to sell or provide plastic bags, but restaurants are exempt. Exemptions are written into the rules for plastic bags that protect produce or meat and plastic bags covering wet items. Paper bags separating bottles, or covering greeting cards or pharmacy items are also exempt.

The ordinance will require retailers to charge customers a 10-cent fee for all paper carry-out bags, which must contain at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled content. The 10-cent fee will be collected and kept by the retailer. A year after the rules come into force, the city will review the effectiveness of the fee.

In addition, the Santa Cruz City Council has banned sales and distribution of products made of foam or polystyrene.

The rule bans products such as foam coolers, toys, shipping containers and packing peanuts.

Surfboards, life preservers and other items made of foam but encased in more durable materials would be exempt, and some construction materials also would be exempt.

Vendors who can demonstrate medical or public safety need to use foam would be exempt, and the use of foam by city-contracted vendors would be acceptable during a declared emergency.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
A final vote on these rules is likely to be on City Council's agenda July 24 but is considered to be a routine approval. If passed then, the plastic bag ban would go into effect in April 2013. The foam ban would go into effect within 30 days.

But the City of Santa Cruz may face opposition from Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, an industry group that favors recycling of plastic bags and uses litigation to pressure governments that pass plastic bag bans.

Stephen Joseph, counsel for the coalition, told KION-TV News, "We will sue the City of Santa Cruz if it passes this ordinance without first preparing an environmental impact report."

Santa Cruz City officials signed a Negative Declaration, which states that the banning of plastic bags will not have a significant negative impact on the environment.

An environmental impact report goes into greater detail and is prepared only when it is likely that "significant effects may occur," according to the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Santa Cruz City ban is separate from the plastic bag ban passed by Santa Cruz County, which took effect in March. A lawsuit filed by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, pressured the county to remove restaurants from the ban.

Joseph said the suit was resolved after the county increased the paper bag fee to 25 cents and exempted restaurants.

Scott Collins, assistant to the city manager for the City of Santa Cruz, says the City is confident it is on solid legal ground because its ordinance is modeled on plastic bag bans already in effect in California.

But the issue of an environmental impact review is still unresolved in California.

Last year, Save the Plastic Bag Coalition filed a lawsuit against a bag ban in Manhattan Beach, and in July 2011 the California Supreme Court decided Manhattan Beach did not need a full environmental impact report to pass the ban.

However, the court left open the possibility that other communities would need an environmental impact report to pass a plastic bag ban.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

PHOTO: Groceries in reusable bags in Santa Cruz. (Photo by John Verive)
Licensed under Creative Commons License.

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