We see plenty of benefits and practically no downside to a proposed countywide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags. The ordinance — to be considered today on a first reading — also would require supermarkets to charge 10 cents each for paper bags.
We strongly urge the Integrated Waste Management Authority board of directors to approve the regulations today and to follow up with a final OK in January.
As we’ve said before, we believe this is a reasonable way to reduce plastic litter — too much of which winds up polluting the ocean — while encouraging consumers to make the switch to reusable bags. And unlike an earlier version of the ordinance that included a ban on both plastic and paper bags, it will not be a huge inconvenience for consumers. Those who forget their reusable bags — or simply don’t like them — can still opt for paper bags for a modest fee.
We especially like the fact that it will be countywide, which will do away with the confusion we’ve seen in other counties where rules differ from one community to the next.
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To those who whine that this 10-cents-a-bag charge is a financial burden or unfair tax, we have one word: baloney. Given that the average sack of groceries costs $30, an additional 10 cents per bag will likely go unnoticed.
Besides, where is it writ that shoppers are entitled to “free” bags?
It isn’t. It’s simply a convenience we’ve grown to expect, but one that’s taken a big toll on the environment.
Indeed, even many opponents of the plastic bag ban agree that it makes sense from an environmental standpoint to switch to reusable bags or to encourage more recycling. However, they argue that it should be a voluntary decision — not one mandated by government. That’s a noble idea, but it hasn’t worked so far.
Take recycling: State legislation requires supermarkets that provide customers with plastic bags to also provide containers at their stores where the bags can be recycled. It’s estimated that only 3 percent to 5 percent of bags actually are recycled.
So much for the success of a voluntary program.
Again, San Luis Obispo County waste management officials have crafted a workable ordinance that will lighten the litter and landfill loads with little, if any, inconvenience to shoppers.
The Integrated Waste Management Authority board should join the many jurisdictions throughout the state — Palo Alto, Malibu, Oakland, Los Angeles County, Santa Clara County are some — that have taken similar steps to protect the environment.
The Integrated Waste Management Authority board meets at 1:30 p.m. today at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo.