“Would you like to buy a bag?”
The phrase is now familiar in many California cities, and Santa Barbara could be added to the list of those to ban plastic bags from stores and require merchants to charge for paper or reusable bags.
There are 19 jurisdictions in California with plastic bag bans, and many have been legally challenged but are pending rulings in Courts of Appeal. Some lawsuit-avoidance tips from city staff members included conducting an environmental impact report, exempting restaurants from the ban and steering clear of tax-related restrictions.
The bans wouldn’t apply to product bags for meat or vegetables; restaurants; newspaper bags; dry cleaning bags; or prescription drug bags.
Santa Barbara has been considering a bag ban for years, given the number of them that end up as litter, the impact on the environment and the pure volume dumped every year in the Tajiguas Landfill.
Voluntary, education-focused efforts through the “Where’s Your Bag?” campaign encourage residents to bring reusable bags on shopping trips, especially to supermarkets, and try to get stores involved. Only three are participating, though: Tri-County Produce, Lazy Acres and Scolari’s.
Tri-County owner John Dixon encourages customers to bring reusable bags and gives 5 cents to charity for each one — donating more than $7,000 so far. Reusable bag use has increased 60 percent, he said, and he supports continuing with voluntary efforts, not increasing government regulation with a ban. He noted that a yearlong grace period would allow stores to use up bags already ordered.
Nearby, San Luis Obispo County banned plastic checkout bags from large stores and requires a 10-cent charge for a paper one. Santa Barbara would pursue a similar model.
Santa Barbara City Council members said Tuesday it was unfortunate that Carpinteria acted alone and passed a “fairly radical” bag ban ordinance Monday night.