Paper or plastic? The answer could be “neither” a year from now if an obscure county board gets its way.
The county’s Integrated Waste Management Authority last week directed its staff to prepare an ordinance that would ban the use of paper and plastic bags at large stores throughout the county.
Instead, customers would have to provide re-usable bags or cardboard boxes to carry their groceries and other purchases.
The move to ban “single use” plastic and paper bags has been spreading across the nation. Plastic bags in particular, which end up in landfills, damage the environment, according to backers of the ordinance.
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Bill Worrell, the authority’s manager, said Californians use more than 12 billion plastic and merchandise bags each year, 100 million in this county.
Under the authority’s tentative proposal, a ban would take place July 1, 2012, at 55 stores — mostly supermarkets and larger stores with pharmacies — throughout the county, including inside city limits. That date could change.
The proposed ban defines the bag the government would prefer consumers to use as one “with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple use and re-use.”
These bags would have “a minimum lifetime of 125 uses (and) the capability of carrying a minimum of 22 pounds 125 times over a distance of at least 175 feet.”
The public will have a chance to comment when the authority re-visits the issue again in September. Several speakers backed the ordinance at a recent meeting of the Integrated Waste Management Authority.
The would-be ordinance has generally been flying under the public’s radar, and one speaker told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that it needs more daylight.
Mike Brown of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) called the ordinance “a huge thing” that is costly and “is going to interfere with people’s lives.”
Brown suggested that the county and individual cities hold hearings on the proposal.
The Integrated Waste Management Authority’s board of directors includes all five county supervisors, as well as a representative from each of the county’s seven incorporated cities.
It is one of several lesser-known agencies that have that composition, including the Air Pollution Control District, the San Luis Obispo County Council of Governments and the Local Agency Formation Commission.