Plastic bag ban percolating in Nevada County
January 22, 2014
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — Following Truckee's lead, Nevada City, Grass Valley and all of Nevada County are poised to ban single-use plastic bags in 2014, according to local officials.
"We are definitely planning on moving forward with something, sooner rather than later," said Duane Strawser, a member of the Nevada City Council.
While Nevada City appears to be poised to move toward a bag ban, Grass Valley and Nevada County representatives said their agencies still have some work to do.
"It's something that probably needs discussion," said Howard Levine, a member of the Grass Valley City Council. "We want the Grass Valley Downtown Association and the Chamber (of Commerce) to assemble retailers to determine where they stand on the matter."
Truckee's plastic bag ban, which was approved in October, went into effect last week for grocers and food vendors. Customers there now have the choice to pay five cents for a paper bag, 10 cents for a reusable plastic bag, 99 cents for a reusable fabric bag or remember to bring in their own reusable bags.
The Truckee law will be enforced starting in June.
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"They did a really good job on this thing," said Steve Castleberry, director of Nevada County's public works department. "They did incredible outreach, brought in individual opponents, did rounds with the merchants and retooled the ordinance a couple times before adopting it. It was a (eight- or nine-month) process."
South Lake Tahoe's own ban applies only to single-use carryout plastic bags given out at the point of sale, but not to restaurants or to a wide array of other types of plastic bags, such as sandwich bags, garbage bags or to plastic bags used to wrap meat or produce.
For now, South Lake Tahoe's ban has no penalty for violations. The city council chose to not impose fines for several months as the ban takes effect and gets reviewed. It will start to apply to retail businesses in the city on Oct. 15.
"It's really not that big of a deal," said Nevada City Manager David Brennan. "I have reusable bags, I just need to remember to bring them with me. But I bet it would only take (forgetting them without the option of plastic bags) once for me to learn."
The cultural shift of consumers appears to be more of an issue than the businesses themselves.
BriarPatch Co-op already does not use plastic checkout bags, and the owners of Grass Valley's Grocery Outlet have already expressed support of a ban, but it also has expressed some concerns regarding the cost of relying solely on paper bags, Levine said.
While representatives of larger grocery chains in Grass Valley, such as Raleys and Safeway, have not weighed in on the local debate, those stores have already complied with bans in other communities, such as Truckee.
Dave Painter, owner of SPD Markets, a local grocer with locations in both Grass Valley and Nevada City, has previously said he would support a bag ban as long as it is adopted countywide, so as to not force one of his locations to compete with stores operating under different regulations.
"It would be best if that was the case," Levine said. "The grocers have said they would like everybody to be on the same page."
While Grass Valley looks to garner feedback from its merchants on the impact of a bag ban, Strawser said Nevada City is ready to move forward.
"There have been some informal discussions with merchants that would be affected, and generally there is no opposition," Brennan added, noting Nevada City won't likely be adopting any ban for at least 60 days.
"At our next meeting (in February), we are going to talk about what Truckee has done and what we like about it," he said.
On Jan. 10, a California appeals court upheld San Francisco's ban on single-use plastic bags that can serve as a precedent for other cases. That ordinance was passed in February 2012 and prohibits plastic bags that can be used only once and requires stores to charge 10 cents for recyclable plastic or paper bags.
As for the county, Castleberry noted that most of the affected businesses are within the two cities, except for a few pockets. At a Jan. 9 meeting of the Nevada County Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission (of which Levine and Strawser are both members), Nevada County Supervisor Hank Weston indicated he wants to follow the cities' lead, Castleberry said.
"There are different shades of how to solve the problem. I'm not saying there isn't a problem, the problem exists everywhere, and we can do what we can do limit that," Levine said. "But it is ultimately up to every individual to take responsibility for their part."
Tom Lotshaw, a reporter with the The Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of The Union, contributed to this report, as did the Associated Press.