At Long Last Council To Decide on Single Use Carry-Out Bag Policy

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Based on council’s discussion back in early July, city staff has taken the council’s comments at the time, and revised the proposed ordinance to reflect some of the concerns raised by council.  They present a more comprehensive ordinance that treats businesses more equitably, looking at the types of exemptions that other communities have implemented, and eliminates the business reporting requirements, among other changes.

That discussion arose from comments by Councilmember Brett Lee, who expressed the view that he would prefer to see a charge for all bags, and by Mayor Joe Krovoza, who expressed the belief that all businesses should be treated equally and directed staff to examine the exemptions that other communities have to see what makes most sense for Davis.

According to staff, the majority of other agencies “with adopted local ordinances have selected the ‘All Retail’ provision. The second most popular ordinance applicability is for ‘Large Retail’ including only Large Retail (Draft NRC Ordinance) or Large Retail with restaurants.”

“The Draft NRC Ordinance applies only to larger businesses that generate the majority of the single use carry-out bag volume in the retail sector,” staff writes. “Adding additional businesses adds to the potential costs of the ordinance. Agencies with ‘All Retail’ ordinances have done so to simplify the implementation process and allow uniform applicability to all businesses.”

Staff continues, “The Draft NRC Ordinance contains some of the most common exemptions including low income and food safety considerations. The other big area for exemptions is related to ordinance applicability in terms of which businesses are exempted from the ordinance. Exempting non-profits is another common exemption.”

Staff has laid out five options for council to consider – all retail, large retail and restaurants, large retail and take out only, draft NRC ordinance, or no project.

They note, “Regardless of the policy option selected, businesses that no longer provide plastic bags for retail transactions (e.g. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods) would be exempt. If restaurants are included in the applicability of the preferred policy option, paper bags would be used in place of single use plastic bags for those transactions. Plastic bags would be allowed for use in protecting public health for transporting meats and produce.”

“Staff’s preliminary conclusion is that a ban on single-use plastic bags would be eligible for a Class 8 exemption from CEQA as an action for protection of the environment,” staff writes. “This is consistent with the recent Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. County of Marin appellate decision. Final determination of the necessary CEQA review will be made based on the specifics of the proposal selected by the City Council, and anticipated impacts in Davis.”

Councilmember Brett Lee expressed concerns about the Draft NRC Ordinance in July.

“It’s a plastic bag ban if you happen to be a supermarket, drug store, or liquor – there’s a whole broad group of businesses that are not touched by this approach,” he said.  “Are plastic bags bad or are they only bad when they come from a supermarket?”

“The idea here is to reduce the use of plastic bags,” he said.  “I know this is not necessarily a popular idea… but I’m much more inclined to believe that we want to reduce the handing out of plastic bags regardless of the business, so I’d like to see a charge for both single-use paper bags and single-use plastic bags applied to all businesses in Davis.”

He argued in both scenarios the usage will be reduced; he said the only question is where we allow the consumers to have some choice.

In the draft ordinance it would mean a retail establishment that does not include a food vendor or restaurant “that provides single-use carryout bags to its customers as a result of the sale of a product.”  It could be a “retail supermarket, convenience food store, foodmart, or other entity which sells canned food, dry grocery, and Perishable Food.”  Or it could be over 10,000 feet of retail space that generates sales tax and has a pharmacy.  That would put stores like Target under the ordinance but not Big Five or Office Max.

However, Mayor Joe Krovoza said, “This is too selective for me.  I think it’s quite frankly inequitable.  I think it doesn’t treat businesses fairly and it doesn’t move us towards the objective.”

“I’m interested in some kind of a motion that sends us back, I want to move on it faster but I want it to be more representative of the overall objective,” he said.  “If I’m going to do something it’s going to be a meaningful act, I don’t want to do something that has people coming back to me saying, how come they didn’t have to do it and I had to do it?”

City Staffer Jacques DeBra in July defended the differentiation, arguing that it provided for the largest percentage of plastic bags without impacting all businesses.

The draft ordinance would include a plastic bag ban, a 10-cent charge for paper and a greater than 10-cent charge for reusable bags, and would only be applicable to larger retailers including supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores.

“On December 6, 2011, the City adopted a Zero Waste Resolution in which the City strives to implement zero waste strategies,” the city writes. “It is the desire of the City of Davis to conserve resources, reduce GHG emissions, waste, litter and pollution. The use of single-use shopping bags (plastic, paper, and biodegradable) have negative environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, litter, water consumption, solid waste generation and effects on wildlife.”

The city adds, “From an overall environmental and economic perspective, the best alternative to single-use plastic and paper carry-out bags is a shift to reusable bags. Studies and impacts from similar policies adopted in other jurisdictions document that restricting plastic bags and placing fees on paper bags will dramatically reduce the use of both types of bags.”

“Despite their lightweight and compact characteristics, plastic bags disproportionately impact the solid waste and recycling stream and persist in the environment even after they have broken down,” the city continues. “Even when plastic bags are disposed of properly, they often become litter due to their aerodynamic nature. The bags can be blown out of the landfill by the wind. Plastic litter not only causes visual blight, but can potentially harm wildlife.”

Council asked that the business reporting requirements be removed.

Councilmember Brett Lee said, “I don’t think it’s necessary to have any business reporting requirements.  I don’t think it’s necessary for the business to keep track of the number of bags they hand out…  I don’t think we need businesses spending time reporting.”

“Nobody cares,” he said.  “Why make them have to do it and why make someone here have to go through the reports?”

“I agree with that as well,” Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said.  He noted that, while the Davis Food Co-op has already gone through the plastic bag ban on their own with charges for paper bags, “they also are not very happy with the idea that they’ll have to report.”

If passed, the ordinance could be effective by July 1, 2014.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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32 thoughts on “At Long Last Council To Decide on Single Use Carry-Out Bag Policy”

  1. Davis Progressive

    i’m still supportive of the nrc ordinance. staff really didn’t do any favors here – they failed to demonstrate in their report that the nrc proposal covers 97% of all plastic bags.

  2. JustSaying

    “Regardless of the policy option selected, businesses that no longer provide plastic bags for retail transactions (e.g. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods) would be exempt.”

    Huh?

  3. Frankly

    Almost all my employees identify themselves as Davis liberals. None of them think a plastic bag ban is a good idea. All of them claim that the single-use plastic bags are used multiple times and provide tremendous utility.

    There is a very pushy, but very small, minority forcing this bag ban just so they have bragging rights at their liberal-save-the-world cocktail parties. They are doing so at the expense of the majority that already make good choices in terms of environmental correctness.

    Time to move on to the next left-ego-boosting environmental cause. The plastic bag ban should be killed, dead, dropped and never be brought up again.

  4. Davis Progressive

    i think it means that the ordinance only applies to those currently providing bags, but it seems oddly written. i looked at the staff report, for such a big item it seems poorly written.

  5. JustSaying

    The old IQ/achievement test questions:

    “Which one of the following is unlike the others and why?
    Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County, Marin County, Davis.”

    “If passed, this ordinance will not cover what percent of Yolo County’s citizens whose bags go to our landfill, assuming the following: Davis 32%, Woodland 28%, West Sac 24%, Winters 3%, unincorp. 13%?”

    “When all Davis businesses comply and ‘no longer provide plastic bags for retail transactions’, how many other than Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods would find themselves “exempt” from the ordinance?”

    “Since more than half of Davis shoppers already do not take single-use bags on a voluntary basis, what percent will be affected by imposing a ban after deducting exempted shoppers?”

    Time. Put down your pencils.

  6. B. Nice

    Places in California that have restrictions on single-use carry out bag restrictions:

    Alameda County and City, Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, and Union City ,Belmont,,Brisbane,Burlingame,Calabasas, Capitola, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carpinteria, Colma, Culver City,Cupertino, Daly City, East Palo Alto,Fort Bragg, Foster City,Glendale,Half Moon Bay, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Long Beach,Los Altos, Los Angeles City, Los Gatos, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Mendocino County, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Mountain View, Ojai, Pacifica, Pasadena,Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos,San Francisco,San Jose,San Luis Obispo County and City, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach,San Mateo City,San Mateo County,Santa Clara County,Santa Cruz City,Santa Cruz County,Santa Monica,Solana Beach,South San Francisco,Ukiah,Watsonville,West Hollywood

    For details on restrictions and list of places around the country with similar restriction: http://www.cawrecycles.org/issues/plastic_campaign/plastic_bags/national

  7. shamusd

    Where is the Davis I know and love, lets take it to a vote of the people, right? How can we possibly let our ELECTED officials determine something of this much significance to our town.

    Jim Donovan

  8. B. Nice


    “How can we possibly let our ELECTED officials determine something of this much significance to our town.”

    We elected them to determine these issues.

  9. JustSaying

    No, this should be decided by the people of Alameda County and City, Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, and Union City, Belmont….and the various coastal California towns.

  10. B. Nice


    “No, this should be decided by the people of Alameda County and City, Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, and Union City, Belmont….and the various coastal California towns.”

    Don’t forgot Ojai, Pleasonton, Livermore, Aspen CO, Boulder CO, Telluride CO, Carbondale CO, Durango CO, Basalt CO, Austin TX,…..of coarse maybe they figure that due to global warming they will soon be coastal communities.

  11. Matt Williams

    shamusd said . . .

    [i]”Where is the Davis I know and love, lets take it to a vote of the people, right? How can we possibly let our ELECTED officials determine something of this much significance to our town.”[/i]

    Tongue in cheek?

  12. Don Shor

    Going to the agenda for Sept. 10 and reading the pdf file on this agenda item, I feel that staff didn’t quite do what the council asked.
    It basically shows the NRC draft ordinance, with the reporting requirement highlighted and lined out. It provides a summary of what some other cities do. Asked to get comments from Davis Downtown (formerly DDBA), the report describes that [quote]Staff met with the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee to outline the options the Council would be discussing at this meeting. The Chamber was encouraged to provide feedback on the policy options being considered by the Council and was afforded the opportunity to provide any written comments in the Council packet.[/quote]
    The Chamber and Davis Downtown aren’t the same thing. So I hope that the Chamber’s GRC invited Davis Downtown, or has sufficient overlap in membership, that the council direction was achieved. No feedback is presented in the report.
    No change has been made to the language to indicate broadening the measure to apply to all retailers. There is a copied list of Large Retail (original NRC list), of Restaurants, and then the list of Other Retail is cut off in the B’s. I assume my business would be affected (not that it matters to me), but have no way to discern from the staff report. It doesn’t appear that staff has made any recommendation in this regard.
    So, as far as I can tell from this report:
    — Plastic bags would be banned, with only food safety exemptions.
    — Paper bags would be subject to a ten-cent fee. No more, no less, no rebate to the customer.
    — No reporting requirements.
    — Council to decide: all retailers, large retailers only, large retailers + all restaurants, or large retailers + take-out restaurants only.
    To the council: I urge you to pass this thing, apply it to all retailers, include exemptions for food safety, and try not to spend more than ten minutes total discussion on this agenda item.

  13. JustSaying

    Good luck on your 10-minute rule, Don. It’ll take staff that long to talk their way out the failure to “get comments from the Downtown Davis Business Association (Davis Downtown).”

    Not only did they get mixed up on what organization the council was targeting with its feedback instructions, the staff report provides zero business response to the major issues under consideration. It sounds as though they overlooked this critical step until the last minute, then tried to disguise it with quick get-together with a few folks and a suggestion to “write in.”

    Maybe the council can spend ten minutes deciding on the one or two options they’d like to see in final form, if any, and have the staff put the documents, if any, out for business and public review with adequate time. The present “draft” with its mishmash of attachments isn’t ready for primetime.

    Of course, this whole bag ban business is a big waste of time. And, has been for more than a year.

    Can we slow it down some more (or shut it down altogether) by threatening the council with a referendum?

  14. Matt Williams

    B. Nice said . . .

    [i]”Why keep plastic bags in the picture at all?”[/i]

    Because I line my waste baskets with my Nugget bags and I poop the yard using the fresh produce plastic bags. Absent those recycled bags I would be buying Glad Twist Tie Gallon Storage Bags to poop the yard and Glad Tall Kitchen Bags to line my waste baskets. The amount of plastic in a typical Tall Kitchen Bag is approximately twice the surface area of a Nugget single use carryout bag, so I would be putting approximately twice as much plastic film into the waste stream under “ban conditions”

    I have no problem with paying 25cents for the ability to recycle the occasional single use plastic bag. I would be spending at least that much per Tall Kitchen Bag if I had to purchase them at Nugget.

  15. B. Nice

    “I have no problem with paying 25cents for the ability to recycle the occasional single use plastic bag. I would be spending at least that much per Tall Kitchen Bag if I had to purchase them at Nugget.”

    I bet you could buy small liner bags for cheaper then .25 a piece.

    Clearly many people are not reusing the plastic bags they get at store. Full bags aren’t causing the problems, empty one are.

  16. Matt Williams

    I’ll swing by Nugget later today and check on the price of Glad’s or Hefty’s tall kitchen bags. My recollection is that a box has about 10 of them and it costs about $2.50, but it has been so long since I bought a box because I recycle that I can’t recall the details. But even if you could purchase them for cheaper, that doesn’t change the fact that the square feet of plastic in each bag is almost surely double the square feet of the Nugget bag. If I remember correctly the thickness of the plastic is substantially greater as well, so using the purchased ones is twice as inefficient, perhaps fourr times as inefficient when the plastic thickness is considered.

    Further, regarding your final point, setting the per bag fee high will cause the “many people not reusing the plastic bag” to not simply discard their money at the speed of 25 cents a flip.

  17. medwoman

    Matt

    “Because I line my waste baskets with my Nugget bags and I poop the yard using the fresh produce plastic bags. Absent those recycled bags I would be buying Glad Twist Tie Gallon Storage Bags to poop the yard and Glad Tall Kitchen Bags to line my waste baskets. The amount of plastic in a typical Tall Kitchen Bag is approximately twice the surface area of a Nugget single use carryout bag, so I would be putting approximately twice as much plastic film into the waste stream under “ban conditions”

    I think there is another point to be considered here. Before plastic bags became ubiquitous, people still cleaned dog poop from their yards and
    either lined their waste baskets with paper bags, or did without lining. It is all a matter of what we are accustomed to doing. I think that the hope of at least some of us who favor decreasing the amount of plastic bages used is that this will be one small step in weaning us away from plastics for “convenience” in general.

  18. JustSaying

    Matt: Why would you buy any type of bags for such uses when you can just pick up a supply of Nugget or Safeway or other store bags when you go to Woodland or West Sac or Winters? Those communities still will be supplying free bags to Yolo County residents and to the county landfill for years to come.

  19. Davis Progressive

    but for how much longer js? and why would you drive to woodland to shop when you can shop here? cost of gas and wear on your car is far more than you would save over the bag

  20. B. Nice

    “I’ll swing by Nugget later today and check on the price of Glad’s or Hefty’s tall kitchen bags”

    Why would need “tall” kitchen bags? Single use bags are hardly considered tall. Small liner bags (about the same size as single use bags) are available, (and are much likely cheaper), as well as even smaller bags for cleaning dog waste.

    “Matt: Why would you buy any type of bags for such uses when you can just pick up a supply of Nugget or Safeway or other store bags when you go to Woodland or West Sac or Winters? Those communities still will be supplying free bags to Yolo County residents and to the county landfill for years to come.”

    Driving that far for the sake of a “free bag” is probably not the best use of most people’s time and resources. Plus as Progressive implied my guess is that, like the smoking ban, other cities, then the state will follow suit on the bag ban.

  21. Matt Williams

    medwoman

    [i]”I think there is another point to be considered here. Before plastic bags became ubiquitous, people still cleaned dog poop from their yards and either lined their waste baskets with paper bags, or did without lining. It is all a matter of what we are accustomed to doing. I think that the hope of at least some of us who favor decreasing the amount of plastic bages used is that this will be one small step in weaning us away from plastics for “convenience” in general.”[/i]

    Point well taken medwoman. Having raised and shown Old English Sheepdogs in my younger days I remember well the pre-plastic bag days. The pooper scooper was ubiquitous as was the hose to wash down the poop that the pooper scooper didn’t quite get. Given all that I learned about water during my tenure on the Water Advisory Committee, I look back on the amount of water used to do daily washing away of the residual dog poop with a bit of horror. So I find myself weighing water conservation vs. the consumption of ten plastic bags a week. Neither solution is truly “green.” Maybe the correct solution is that the two Cocker Spaniels need to be looked at as an environmentally unsound “convenience” that needs to be expunged from my lifestyle. Of course if I do that I’ll be visiting a divorce lawyer in the very near future.

  22. Matt Williams

    David M. Greenwald said . . .

    [i]”Matt: why would you be wasteful when they have cheap biodegradable dog bags and other alternatives?”[/i]

    Fair enough David, but as I read your point, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the reason the Nugget produce bags are no longer clear is that they are now biodegradable. Sounds like a Vanguard story in the making . . . and interview with the Stille family to see whether they could have all their plastic bags be biodegradable.

  23. Matt Williams

    JustSaying said . . .

    [i]”Matt: Why would you buy any type of bags for such uses when you can just pick up a supply of Nugget or Safeway or other store bags when you go to Woodland or West Sac or Winters? Those communities still will be supplying free bags to Yolo County residents and to the county landfill for years to come.”[/i]

    JS, I just did the math, and changing my shopping habits so that my Nugget shopping is done in Woodland or West Sac would be very time consuming. I make purchases at the Mace Nugget like John, Paul, George and Ringo . . . eight days a week. I hate to think what the increase of my carbon footprint would be just to avoid paying my CRV equivalent for two trash can plastic bag liners a week and seven poop bags.

    Carbon footprint is important to me, and if David gets the right answer from the Stille family, the Nugget bags will soon be (or already are) biodegradable.

  24. Matt Williams

    B. Nice said . . .

    [i]”Why would need “tall” kitchen bags? Single use bags are hardly considered tall. Small liner bags (about the same size as single use bags) are available, (and are much likely cheaper), as well as even smaller bags for cleaning dog waste.”[/i]

    Good question B. Nice. The truthful reason is that I went to my cupboard and looked at the name of the box of unused bags and it said “Tall Kitchen Bags” I honestly didn’t know that Glad made Small Kitchen Bags. I was harvesting grapes all day today so when I get to Nugget I’ll take my ruler and do some bag measurements.

    Between my green can for recyclable yard material eliminating any need for lawn and leaf bags, and the Nugget bags eliminating the need for buying trash can liners, I haven’t bought a plastic bag other than a zip lock in all 15 years I’ve lived in Davis.

  25. B. Nice

    Matt- I’ve heard the arguement made that you shouldn’t actually use biodegradable bags to clean up dog waste, Any insight?

    How fast do biodegradable bags degrade? Empty ones can still fly around and out of the landfill on busy days.

  26. B. Nice

    [quote] I honestly didn’t know that Glad made Small Kitchen Bags[/quote]

    I hope I’m right, we don’t actually use this size, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them out there, I’ve seen really thin transparent ones too.

  27. Matt Williams

    B. Nice, I’ll talk to David about it tomorrow. He was the one who brought that up.

    . . . and thanks for all the really great comments you’ve been posting on a wealth of subjects.

  28. B. Nice

    I looked a little more into biodegradable plastic bags. From what I gleamed during my internet research, biodegradable bags will not degrade in a landfill apparently they need access to a basic combination of air, water, light, microbes, and enzymes, which aren’t present in landfills. I guess they are better suited for the compost pile (except if they are filled with dog poop)

    As far as eco-friendly depositing of dog poop I found directions on how to build your own “Dog Waste Digester” composting bin. Anyone want to give it a shot and let me know how bad the smell is?

    [url]http://greatlakesecho.org/2012/08/21/compost-dog-poop-with-a-d-i-y-dog-waste-digester/[/url]

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