Ban on paper and plastic bags to be considered by waste board

A proposed ban on the use of paper and plastic bags at retailers countywide could come closer to approval Wednesday as an obscure county board takes up the issue.

Stores would still be allowed to offer thicker — and in theory more likely to be reused — paper and plastic bags with handles under a proposed ordinance before the county’s Integrated Waste Management Authority board.

Customers would be required to buy those bags at a cost of 5 cents each. The paper bags are similar to those given out at New Frontiers, Scolari’s and Trader Joe’s markets.

The board will also consider whether to include some or all provisions of two similar ordinances passed in Marin County and Manhattan Beach, with the key differences being that the Marin law allows for a thinner, unhandled paper bag and the Manhattan Beach law does not require stores to charge for bags.

The county board will not vote on the final draft of the ordinance for San Luis Obispo County until November.

Officials hope to have the law in place by Sept. 1, 2012, throughout the county, including inside city limits. Farmers markets and nonprofit thrift stores would be exempt.

A group called Keep Bags Free SLO, sponsored by the Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council, protested the plan Monday in front of the San Luis Obispo Food 4 Less.

Affiliates of the group say that charging for the paper bags is simply another tax that would burden consumers who cannot afford it.

“Our priority should be getting people back to work, not punishing them when they stimulate our economy by purchasing goods at local stores,” Mike Brown, director of the citizen group Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, said in a news release Monday.

Sitting on the Integrated Waste Management Authority’s board of directors are all five county supervisors, a representative from each of the county’s seven cities, and a representative of the Cambria Community Services District.

Bill Worrell, the authority’s manager, said charging for the bags would allow stores to recover the cost of providing them.“We don’t want to subsidize wasting,” Worrell said.

Worrell said up to $40,000 would be used to buy bags to give to low-income people through social service programs.