Monday night the Carpinteria City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would ban single-use paper and plastic bags in the city. A second reading will be held on March 12 to discuss the finer details, and, if approved, the ordinance will become effective on April 11. The council has been reviewing Ordinance 655 since 2007, holding 13 public meetings in that time.

The vote was 4-1 with Councilmember Joe Armendariz casting the lone dissenting vote. He said he didn’t want to make Carpinteria businesses pay for reusable bags to sell, worrying it would hurt their bottom line. He also said he wasn’t convinced that banning single-use bags would make as large of a positive impact on the environment as many have predicted.

In 2010, the California Senate decided not to enact a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, leaving local governments to decide on their own regulations. Fourteen other cities have passed ordinances; Carpinteria looked to the success of the Manhattan Beach’s recent ordinance to guide its own process. But passing Manhattan Beach’s ordinance was no simple accomplishment. The city experienced difficulties in the details and was sued by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition for failing to draft an environmental impact report. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in favor of the city, citing a “common sense” exemption.

Carpinteria recently saw a voluntary ban on all single-use bags from Albertsons, which had been one of the largest distributors of plastic bags in the city. So far the store’s program has eliminated at least one million single-use plastic bags and hundreds of thousands of single-use paper bags in one year. On behalf of those in the audience who may have doubted the program’s success, Mitch Mahogany, store director of Albertsons in Carpinteria, assured the council, “We did not lose a single job in Carpinteria, and we will be hiring 60 more people soon.”

Several amendments were made to Carp’s ordinance and include small changes to the definition of a paper bag as well as a “gift bag” (a type of bag given out by several local shops), which refers to Los Angeles County’s ordinance that states the bags must be made from 100 percent recycled materials, have a post-consumer content of at least 40 percent, and be 100 percent recyclable when handles are removed. The council also decided that small businesses can only offer single-use paper (excluding gift bags) with a minimum ten-cent charge.

Pacific Health Foods was supportive of the ban but hoped the council would ban plastic bags altogether and opt for a biodegradable or compostable bag. Several other small business owners expressed their concern about the proposed changes and hoped to gain exemptions or different bag options for their businesses. Staff member Dave Durflinger mentioned to the council that the staff would work with owners who were having trouble identifying adequate, reusable bags for their businesses. The Surfrider Foundation, Carpinteria Beautiful, and the Community Environmental Council as well as many other local environmental groups were present to show the council members their support.

Also discussed was a ban by larger stores and grocery stores of single-use plastic but with a minimum price of 25 cents for paper bags allowed. In regard to this, Mayor Al Clark made a statement: “I really don’t know if there is a charge big enough. I am going with the total ban as proposed.” Fast food restaurants will be forced to phase out single-use bags but can be granted a six-month exemption if hardship can be proven.

Councilmember Kathleen Reddington, before making the motion to approve the ordinance, made an emotional statement to all present. “The cost is obvious. The cost is not only in the here and now but in future generations. This just needs to be done and it needs to be done now.”


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