Grocers Favor Plastic Bag Ban in Sonoma County, Calif.

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Grocers Favor Plastic Bag Ban in Sonoma County, Calif.


PETALUMA, Calif. -- Local grocery stores have responded positively to a proposed Sonoma County, Calif., ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags, according to a Petaluma360 report. Under the terms of the ordinance, plastic bags would not be permitted, and a small fee would be added to paper bags in order to encourage consumers to switch to reusable bags.

Sonoma County Waste Management (SCWM), which proposed the ordinance, has reportedly gained the support the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors along with six cities in the county, including Petaluma. The SCWM plans to discuss the ordinance with the cities of Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa later this month.

While final details of the ordinance have yet to be determined, plastic produce bags would likely be exempt from the ban. Other California cities that have enacted similar bans have exempted produce bags and those used to contain meat for sanitary reasons, as juices could leak through other kinds of bag.

"It's going to take some adjustment, but overall it's going to be a good thing," said Jamie Downing, manager of Petaluma Market, which sells offers both plastic and paper bags and sells reusable cloth bags. "I don't think it will have a big impact on us. We already have some customers using cloth bags."

Some grocery chains such as Whole Foods have already stopped using plastic bags and begun promoting reusable bags, as well as launched a plastic bag recycling program.

"Most people were very positive and understanding about the decision," said Dana Leavitt, manager of the Petaluma Whole Foods. "Some people initially didn't want paper, but overall we had a great response from customers."

Other California cities with similar bans have seen customers simply switch to paper bags if they dot include a fee. "Unless you put a fee on paper bags, customers won't change their behavior," said Safeway spokesperson Susan Houghton. "Based on experience in other markets in Maui, Kauai and San Francisco, where they have plastic-bag bans in place, you have to put a fee on paper bags. It gives more of a disincentive to use paper and switch to reusable bags. That's where we want to be."

The California Grocers Association wants to be part of any finalization of a Sonoma County ordinance, according to the report. "Whatever policy they support or don't we hope is one that works for retailers and consumers," said Tim James of the CGA.