Survey says: Majority of Truckee supports banning plastic bags

Margaret Moran
A grocery store plastic bag lies in a Truckee parking lot last winter.
File photo |

By the numbers

Community survey takers: 1,112

Community members pro ban: 771

Community members anti ban: 263

Individuals undecided: 75

Business survey takers: 46

Businesses pro ban: 21

Business anti ban: 20

Data collected: Jan. 8 - March 5

* Not all questions were answered by survey takers.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — If community members get their way, the days of the single-use plastic bag in Truckee may be numbered.

Final survey results from the town of Truckee about the possibility of doing away with checkout plastic bags for environmental reasons show 70 percent of 1,109 community members and 51 percent of 41 business owners are in favor of a ban.

“This is not surprising to us because Truckee’s community is very environmentally minded and wants to preserve the natural beauty that is around them,” said Alexa Tarrell, solid waste and recycling division intern, and Nichole Dorr, the town’s recycling coordinator, in a joint statement. “Businesses were much more skeptical about the ordinance and were primarily concerned with how it would impact their customers.”

The proposal would ban plastic checkout bags, while allowing area businesses to offer customers recyclable paper bags for a several cent fee. All generated funds would be kept by the businesses to cover implementation costs, according to previous reports.

Twenty-four percent of community members and 49 percent of businesses opposed the proposed ban, with 7 percent of individuals undecided, citing a need for more information.

Concerns voiced by community members include the cost and inconvenience of switching to reusable bags; potential health issues of reusable bags, such as food-borne illness; and how the ban would affect certain residents, such as low income residents and the elderly, Tarrell and Dorr said.

As for business concerns, they include customers — both locals and visitors — potentially viewing the ordinance negatively; and the survey’s suggested fee of 20 cents for paper bags being too high. Town staff is considering a lesser fee of 10 cents after some businesses indicated they would settle for it, said Tarrell and Dorr.

“This is a controversial topic about convenience and self-regulation versus governmental regulation,” they said in an email. “The majority of those (who) answered the survey likely already had a strong opinion about waste or government regulation.”

A document is being created to address survey concerns, the release of which is expected soon, the duo said. Afterward, a follow-up survey may be released before a proposed ordinance is drafted and presented to town council.

That ordinance may detail a phased-in approach, giving retailers time to use their existing stockpile of plastic bags, with the ban likely taking effect at larger retailers before smaller ones, Tarrell and Dorr said.

No date has been set to present an ordinance to town council, Dorr said.

In South Lake Tahoe, city council declined to vote on a plastic bag ban ordinance on Jan. 22 with Mayor Tom Davis and Councilwoman JoAnn Conner voicing concerns about the public health ramifications of encouraging people to use reusable bags, saying the bags are hard to clean and can foster the spread of food-borne illness like those caused by E. coli. Councilman Hal Cole added that he was uncomfortable trying to change people’s behavior via the fee on recycled paper bags.

Should a plastic bag ban ordinance be adopted in Truckee, Tarrell and Dorr said town staff is committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for businesses and will provide “plenty of set-up” time before it goes into effect.

Adam Jensen, a reporter with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the Sun’s sister paper in South Lake Tahoe, contributed to this report.

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