On Wednesday, March 20, residents of the unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County will have had a full year to adjust to a law banning the distribution of plastic, grocery-style bags — part of an effort to reduce littering and encourage reusable bags.
The anniversary marks the beginning of the ban’s second phase, which will increase the cost of paper bags at all retail outlets, including grocery and hardware stores, from 10 cents to 25 cents.
On Monday, April 22, restaurants will no longer be permitted to use plastic bags for take-out food items, but restaurants will still be allowed to offer free paper bags.
Tim Goncharoff, a resources planner for Santa Cruz County, said that the restaurant plastic bag ban lagged the grocery bag ban to settle a lawsuit brought forth by Bay Area-based Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which has fought similar bans throughout the state.
Jayson Madani, co-owner of 9 Burger in Boulder Creek, said while it was less expensive to use plastic bags for take-out orders than paper ones, it was a matter of “pennies and dimes” and probably wouldn’t be a make-or-break issue.
“It doesn’t really bother us too much,” Madani said. “It’s one more expense for our overhead, but it’s better for the environment.”
Goncharoff said that while Save the Plastic Bag Coalition was suing again over the restaurant plastic bag ban, the county was not overly concerned because a Superior Court judge ruled against the organization in a suit opposing a similar ban in San Francisco in September of last year.
“The county’s attorneys are feeling pretty confident about it,” he said.
He also noted the ban was to go into effect as planned on April 22 — Earth Day — and called the coincidence “good symbolism.”
According to data the county has gathered since the original ban went into place, Goncharoff said shoppers have had little difficulty transitioning from plastic to reusable or paper bags.
“We’re already seeing pretty good compliance throughout the county,” Goncharoff said. “We’re finding that consistently more than 80 percent of shoppers (affected by the ban) are bringing their own bags.”
Goncharoff said that, since the ban went into effect last year, an estimated 30 million fewer plastic bags were distributed in Santa Cruz County.
“That’s a huge impact,” he said. “I’d say there’s been a dramatic change.”
Goncharoff said Watsonville adopted a plastic bag ban of its own in April 2012, and that the cities of Santa Cruz and Capitola would follow suit in April.
After that, he said, Scotts Valley would be the last place in the county where plastic bags could legally be distributed.
For information: www.santacruzcountyrecycles.org