Behind the Plastic Bag Ban Fight

San Jose’s plastic bag ordinance will save local creek bed ecosystems, bankrupt mom-and-pop shops, drastically alter consumer habits, spark grocery store riots on Thanksgiving, bring down the plastics industry and destabilize the global economy—all at the same time. Or it could just force shoppers to bring their own bags to avoid a 10-cent fee per paper sack.

The truth is, the complexity of the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, has less to do with any potential fallout as where and how the ban is being implemented. The bag ban’s impact is best found in the invisible boundry line that intersects Valley Fair Mall on Stevens Creek Boulevard. The San Jose city limit cannot be seen or felt, but the divide between San Jose and Santa Clara is stark. The Santa Clara side starts near Gap and runs through the Macy’s men’s department, according to Laura Vestal, the mall’s marketing director.

Customers at Macy’s women’s department, which resides on the San Jose side of Valley Fair,  were seen carrying out new clothes on hangers if they forget bags, while some stores on the Santa Clara side have no intention of changing their habits or may not understand the complexity of the law.

“The ban didn’t affect us at all, because we don’t have plastic bags,” says a woman behind the counter at Louis Vuitton. No one bothers to tell her that the expensive hand bags the store sells are covered in some type of polyurethane coating, which may or may not fall under the ordinance.

The reality is the bag ban was never designed to pit stores against one another; it was to nudge other cities into action. San Jose wants to set a local trend that already is spreading across the country.

“Palo Alto was a bit ahead of us, Sunnyvale is right on our heels, Milpitas is looking at [a bag ban], and other cities are looking at it but it’s hard to say if it’s going to move,” says Sam Liccardo, a San Jose city councilmember. “I think a lot of folks are sitting back to wait and see how it works out in San Jose. We recognize the leadership role that San Jose plays in the region, and it would be very difficult to persuade any small towns to dip their toe in the water first.”

Joining Councilmember Kansen Chu, who was the first person in San Jose to suggest a ban back in January 2008, Liccardo helped shepherd the city through a two-year struggle to craft an ordinance while coming into the crosshairs of paid lobbyists.

“They’re spending a lot of time in individual cities,” Liccardo says of plastics industry lobbyists. “They’re worried about the contagion effect. But the hope is that when several large cities have moved together on initiatives like this, Sacramento will not be far behind. Then this won’t be an issue on which side of the city limits you live on, but that this will be a statewide issue.”

The two biggest opponents of the plastic bag ban in San Jose from 2008 through 2010 were lobbyists Manny Diaz and Ed McGovern. According to the city’s website, which does not have all records available online, Diaz was paid a minimum of $80,000 by the American Chemistry Council for his lobbying of city officials during a two year period ending in October 2009. Online records show the same group paid McGovern at least $21,000 in 2010 to lobby city officials to reject enactment of a similar ban aimed at Expanded Polystyrene, otherwise known as single-use Styrofoam containers, for San Jose restaurants this summer.

“They definitely spent a lot of time and money,” Chu says. “I know they came and talked to me many times over the years, and I know they were also definitely influencing the state legislature.”

Merchants in San Jose had a full year to prepare for compliance with the ban, and the clamor over the change has been meek. But the debate on the harm plastic bags cause the environment has intensified as other areas consider implementation of similar bans.

Seattle recently approved a bag ban similar to San Jose—except the fee for paper bags is 5 cents each instead of 10—which now faces a referendum-like effort to repeal the law. The opponent in that effort is reportedly a private citizen, but plastics manufacturers have heavy pockets in a fight to save an industry that in 2007 employed a million people and created $374 billion in plastics.

Bags That Bad?

Stephen Joseph, the lead counsel for the website Save the Plastic Bag, says that arguments about plastic bags harming the environment are overblown and in many cases outright fabrications. Dismissing the Great Plastic Garbage Patch—a floating island of plastic trash said to be in the Atlantic Ocean—as a myth, the San Francisco—based attorney with an English accent says that baseless claims by politically motivated environmentalists threaten the public more than the products they target.

“We’re supposed to be the corporate bullies who lie and deny, and they’re whiter than snow and they would never tell a lie and never make up any statistics,” Joseph says. “That’s the problem—anything they say, the congregation has to say, ‘Amen!’ Anything we say, it mustn’t be true because we’re saying it. But that’s the way it is on the left. By the way, I’m a Democrat.”

Joseph’s arguments against plastic bag bans are passionate and thorough. He’s done this before, pushing back against a growing number of cities across the country considering bans. Santa Cruz County is considering scaling back its ban to allow restaurants to distribute single-use bags for take-out customers, which is how San Jose’s ban is structured. A threatened lawsuit from Joseph inspired the change of heart.

“The reason I’m doing this is because I consider myself the ultimate environmentalist,” he says. “You cannot make environmental policy based on lies. If we environmentalists are not true, we’re not honest, what good are we?”

But the logic of plastics industry advocates starts to wear thin when one wonders how to argue that reusable bags are worse for the environment than single-use plastic and paper bags.

“Reusable bags don’t come from Heaven,” Joseph says. “Nearly all the reusable bags that are replacing the plastic bags come from China. The plastic bags we use in America, 85 percent are made in America.”

And then:  “The problem with people reusing reusable bags, they’re so large you can’t really carry them around everywhere.”

According to city officials in San Jose, not only are businesses overwhelmingly complying with the plastic bag ban, customer complaints have also been nearly non-existent.

Jennifer Garnett, a spokesperson for the city’s Environmental Services department, says more than 5,000 retailers were sent returnable certificates detailing the ordinance, which forbids handled plastic bags and forces stores to charge a 10 cent fee for paper bags. (The fee goes up to 25 cents in 2014.) About a third of those businesses responded by returning the certificates and self-registering, Garnett says, and since the ban went into effect, only eight citizen complaints have been voiced to the city about stores not abiding by the ban.

The domino effect continues to take shape. Sunnyvale is currently crafting its own ordinance, made easier by the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that San Jose conducted. Melinda Hamilton, Sunnyvale’s former mayor, sent a letter thanking the city for its guidance. Milpitas took its own steps in October of last year, and Monterey is now on its way to banning single-use plastic bags as well. The hope at San Jose’s City Hall is that the rest of the county is on its way to joining the ban, if for no other reason than to avoid more Valley Fair Mall situations.

“We want to push it countywide,” Chu says, “so we don’t have people confused if they live in San Jose and they cross the street and there are different rules governing them.”

Josh Koehn is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to josh@metronews.com or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

100 Comments

  1. > “You cannot make environmental policy based on lies.. . .”

    What!

    It’s done ALL THE TIME!!!!!!

    The California Global Warming Solutions Act is a lie.

    Every word in it is a lie, including “and” and “the”.

    • RE: Visualize Liberty

      Why don’t you come to ANY Bay Area river clean-up day and see for yourself what kind of lies our elected officials are spreading. It’s too bad there needs to be law like this, only if our parents taught us the impacts of our discarded trash things could have been different.

  2. “Palo Alto was a bit ahead of us, Sunnyvale is right on our heels, Milpitas is looking at [a bag ban], and other cities are looking at it but it’s hard to say if it’s going to move,” says Sam Liccardo, a San Jose city councilmember.

    The city is in financial ruin but hey we’re kicking Milpitas’ ass in the plastic bag banning department!

    Isn’t Liccardo the same guy who has “review of outdoor somking” down as a staff priority for fy2012?

    Common sense, frugality, good governance.  They’ve all left the building.

  3. San Jose is going to be a beacon of common sense for the smaller surrounding cities???? Oh my God….does our city council really have their collective heads that far up their arses?

  4. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade? Maybe that’s a good thing.
    Plastic is made from fossil fuels isn’t it? So every plastic bag buried in a landfill is packed with carbon molecules that are being kept OUT of the atmosphere- thus unable to contribute to the greenhouse effect.
    If we really want to solve global warming maybe what we need are more plastic bags, not fewer. After all, the more plastic, the less gasoline.

  5. Raise your hand if you think the city should be spending money on plastic bag administrators, enforcers, and spokespersons instead of police officers?  Public art, plastic bag bans, smoking bans, etc… are all noble pursuits but when the city cannot afford to provide residents with the most basic services, you have to wonder if our leaders are distracted and not working on the most important challenges facing our city. Where is their plan to adequately staff SJPD?

    • “Public art, plastic bag bans, smoking bans, etc… are all noble pursuits”

      Telling people they can’t smoke while freakin’ outdoors is about as far from “noble” as a civic pursuit can be.

  6. Good riddance to the plastic bag.  But I disagree with our benighted City Council when it comes to charging a dime (a quarter next year) for paper bags, which are truly a renewable resource. 

    Oh, lets not forget that those on food stamps/WIC/whatever are not charged for the paper bags. I guess those folks don’t have to carry their own cloth bags, eh?

  7. I think banning plastic bags for the environment was a great idea!  But charging for a paper bag?  Is this council out of their minds?  It just forced me to shop in Campbell before going home.  I wonder how many others are doing the same?  No tax revenue for you!

  8. “According to city officials in San Jose, not only are businesses overwhelmingly complying with the plastic bag ban, customer complaints have also been nearly non-existent.”

    I would love to know who the city official is who denies that we have been receiving complaints.  My office has received complaints by phone. mail, and email.

    At a Tuesday evening community meeting in District 1 there were dozens of people in attendance who were opposed to the ban. In fact, when I took an impromptu poll approximately 90% were opposed.

    Resident after resident told me that they simply did their grocery shopping in the city of Campbell to avoid the over regulation. This is exactly opposite of what our city needs. We should be working to reduce excessive regulation, provide easy options for recycling, and most importantly stop burdening residents and businesses as we struggle to move out of this recession and into future prosperity.

    Pete

    • This comment was confirmed by Councilmember Constant’s office. Pete was the lone councilmember to vote against the ban.

      The city official who said very few complaints have been received came from Jennifer Garnett of Environmental Services.

      JK

    • I too have started doing all my shopping in Gilroy. They seem to be the only city not committed to banning bags now or in the near future.

      I have also bought my own t shirt bags to carry in our vehicles. They are used for trip to the neighbor grocer for an item or two. I do my best not to spend on any taxable items within the city limits.

      Thank you for actually having critical thinking skills Councilmember Constant. Keep fighting the good fight.

      • Wow. First time I have ever heard “critical thinking skills” and “Councilmember Constant” used in the same sentence.

  9. I was in Sweden in 2001.  We stopped at a local store to buy a few items.  Our purchases were put in a Fishnet kind of back, for which we were charged by the store.  The fishnet bag was plastic, but reusable many times over.  I was told that Sweden had initiated such a charge many years prior to 2001.

    There’s a lot of hoopla whenever folks are asked to change their long-held habits.  We’ll all get over it.  Meanwhile, when I heard of the upcoming ban I started stockpiling the paper bags with handles.  Lunardi’s was even giving you a five cent per bag credit if you brought your own bags of any type until the ban went into effect 1/1/12.  But instead of doing this piecemeal, city by city, we should just do it nationwide…or at least statewide.

    Packaging and bags make up a huge portion of what I have recycled starting in the late 1960s.  Anything to reduce that load is probably a good thing.  We as a nation tend not to use things multiple times; we replace rather than repair.  Other developed countries are way ahead of us on those issues.

    • I have also accumulated a substantive number of paper bags, likely enough to last for ten years, if treated properly. 

      Nonetheless, I’m so damn tired of our greasy politicians screwing the residents of San Jose that I nearly always shop in Campbell, Santa Clara or Morgan Hill.  I’ll be f****d if I’m going to let our idiot SJ Government have a dime of my sales tax to piss away on everything but services to its residents.

      • And that dime on the paper bags is not an issue for me. It is the principal. I am tired of this administration…just tired. I shop in surrounding cities, now.

    • Fishnet bags are a danger to turtles and fish.  Be careful not to put these into the waste stream unless you cut up all the small holes which can trap aquatic creatures.  The same for six-pack retainers.

  10. The plastic bag ban was never, never about reducing litter in City streets and of our local waterways, although that was a primary argument offered to impliment the ban. 

    Although I have observed some grocery store bags, and even fewer retail store bags as common litter around the city, I have observed far greater amounts of litter from fast food containers, beverage containers (despite CRV), and other convenience store product packagings. 

    The arguments offered by our enlightened leadership to support the ban were outright disgraceful and disingenuous at best.  If single-use anything were to be targeted, then practically everything commonly used throughout the day would be “ban worthy”.

    And why would anyone complain about the ban to ESD and actually think that it would make a difference?  Kidding right?  ESD is merely the messenger for the Council.  No volume of complaints will get Council to reconsider this ban, especially since everyone has resigned themselves to accepting it begrudgingly.  If it was put to a public vote, it would not pass.

    No this ban wasn’t about saving the environment or even improving it.  It was about shameless self-promoting by appearing to be the most politically enlightened burg in the South Bay, and trying to out-green other area politicians.

    Meanwhile, no CRV on wine or liquor bottles.

    • They still have plastic bags. I drove there, last evening and spent nearly $300 on groceries. When I shop in SJ, it will be for an amount I can carry in my arms. I had to buy an item the other day and I talked with the cashier who stated the ban has increased the lengths in lines, tremendously. He wasn’t happy. I guess people fiddling around with trying to fill their bags are taking too long. If I was a cashier, I wouldn’t want to be handling people used over and over bags that they brought from home.

    • “No this ban wasn’t about saving the environment or even improving it.  It was about shameless self-promoting by appearing to be the most politically enlightened burg in the South Bay, and trying to out-green other area politicians.”

      The same can be said for about 60% of all city council initiatives.  It can also be boiled down to job justification.  If you aren’t sitting on the dais pontificating, then you have to be out finding windmills to joust in order to justify your existence.

    • P.W. Dude is right on.  As a bicyclist observing roadside and creekside litter, store bags are a small problem compared to fast-food and beverage items, or even cigarette butts.

    • Where should I complain?I would really want to. Yesterday I was absolutely shocked, when Grocery Outlet offered me bags WITHOUT handlers for $.10 each.And commented on my appointment “it is ordinance requirements”  It is a mess now.

    • “…this ban wasn’t about saving the environment or even improving it.  It was about shameless self-promoting by appearing to be the most politically enlightened burg in the South Bay, and trying to out-green other area politicians.

      Meanwhile, no CRV on wine or liquor bottles.”

      Yeah, that pretty much says it all.  Except that once upon a time, the sort of people who today call themselves “progressives,” gave a damn about the working class, and thus it might have then been worth pointing out that the average cashier working at Lucky’s or WalMart will find their job made substantially more difficult by this measure, but will (of course) receive no additional compensation for performing it (yes, loading someone’s groceries into cloth sacks is significantly more unpleasant a task to be performing for eight hours per day than loading them into those plastic bags – if you can’t understand why that is, well, you’re just going to have to trust me on this…or you could ask the checker next time you’re grocery shopping – I’m quite confident about the answer you’ll receive).

      But its 2012, and the politicians only care about the middle class to the extent that being perceived as not doing so might be harmful to their electoral prospects.  Working class people are perceived as non-voters and non-donors, so our concerns effectively do not exist.

  11. This is yet another example of “Big Brother (thinks it) Knows Best.”

    My family always repurposed or recycled plastic bags.

    I think it should be an individual choice.

    Things to consider:

    * Shoplifting (intentional or accidental) is likeley to go up.  A bag was usually a sign of purchase, and it will be easier to bring in an old receipt and walk out non-chalantly with a five finger discount.

    * People are more likely to forget their receipts, which they usually kept in the bags with the merchandise, leading to difficulty returning items that are defective.

    * Paper bags are likely to be thrown in the garbage, particularly if meat juice or other moisture gets on them. This means less recycling.

    * Speaking of meat juice- “reusable” bags are likely to get bacteria and other gunk in them, which can make people sick.

    * A “measly” $.10 per bag will add up if people don’t want to lug around large, ugly bags. It’s inconvenient to carry around 10 bulky bags when buying a large amount of groceries or other items.

    * It takes longer for grocers to bag items in “reusable” bags, leading to higher labor costs, which will translate to higher costs for goods.

    Need I go on?  Because I can.

    • “* Shoplifting (intentional or accidental) is likeley to go up.  A bag was usually a sign of purchase, and it will be easier to bring in an old receipt and walk out non-chalantly with a five finger discount.”

      Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has already tried that one.

      “* Paper bags are likely to be thrown in the garbage, particularly if meat juice or other moisture gets on them. This means less recycling.”

      One of the exceptions re plastic bags ban is meat and poultry.  They can still be placed in single use plastic bags to kep the moisture away from the main bag.

    • - Impulse shopping will go down as people are going to start trying to buy only the amount of groceries that will fit into their bags, thus the city loses out on more tax money;

      - People will limit their shopping so they do not have to lug so many unbagged groceries to their car and then from car to house. Again, the city loses the taxes.

      - Then, of course, there are those who will shop in cities that do not have bans. Guess who loses?

      I think the City shot itself in the foot with this one.

  12. The ban on plastic bags is pointless. Why doesn’t San Jose ban plastic bottles for soft drinks or water? I have been shopping in surrounding towns that have not followed this ban into law. I passedby the Almaden Trader Joe’s today. The lines inside were skimpy and the shoppers heading in with their assorted sacks bundled up in their hands looked like citizen vagabonds from a European country. It was would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic.

      • What next?  Drawing our water out of individual wells with wood buckets in our backyard?  Why don’t you environazis just admit your true agenda.  You want us to go back to the middle ages where you think everybody was green and happy.  Why do you people think technology is so evil?

      • “You want us to go back to the middle ages where you think everybody was green and happy.”

        Yes they do.  Except that you must also live your middle ages lifestyle without starting fires and such. 

        But seriously, I think we can all agree that people are what’s ailing the planet and I think most of us also agree that banning plastic bags is just another half measures that won’t make much of a difference.

        What we really need is a real solution – something Soylent Green-esque.

        With just a little bit of clever marketing… and BAM!  Pure saving-the-planet gold. 

        “Did you know that by stepping into this Soylent Green booth that you’ll have saved the earth from the equivalent 600,000 plastics bags?”

        Now that’s real impact!!  And would no doubt prove irresistible to true believer environmentalists too.

  13. I have received numerous complaints about the new plastic bag ban. Our year over year sales for the first week of the year were down 17%. The lines are outrageous with baggers trying to deal with different sizes of floppy bags, rather than a standardized system. Many customers have told my workers that they will drive the extra 10 minutes to shop in another city. I am but a lowly grocery store manager, but our city council blew it on this one.

    • Was out in Morgan Hill today and, before I left, I did my bi-weekly grocery shopping and filled my near empty gas tank.  Starve the beast!

      • Greg, I understand what you and many others are doing. This ban on bags will have a direct impact on my employees, as their hours will be cut if sales dont pick up. The other cities around San Jose arent suddenly going to be banning plastic bags, as the increase in shoppers will be a boon to their sales tax revenues. Pier, Sam, and the mayor should really look twice at this ban. Just my opinion.

        • My regrets.  I fully support the plastic bag ban but I do disagree with the City’s screwing of the residents on paper bags. 

          Even more, I greatly resent SJ Government’s attitude towards its residents when it comes to basic services – police, fire, libraries, road repair, street sweeping, etc.  For that reason, I vote with my wallet and attempt to spend little or nothing in SJ.

          Starve the beast!

        • You need to get with other grocers and start knocking on City Hall’s doors and making a little noise. The squeaking wheel gets the oil. No squeak…no fix.

    • I used to work at a supermarket in Almaden (and presently work at a WalMart in South Dakota), and I can assure you, this guy (“Grocery store manager”) is correct.  This measure is a disaster for San Jose-based stores.  Should be real good for the Winchester & Budd Safeway in Campbell, however.

  14. > The city official who said very few complaints have been received came from Jennifer Garnett of Environmental Services.

    Does the city Environment Services office have a complaint hotline?  What is the phone numbers.

    Has the city Environment Services office ever let the public know that it has a complaint hotline?

    Has any one ever asked Jennifer if she is aware that university studies have shown that the recyclable cloth bags promoted by the anti-plastic bag activists have been shown to contain fecal matter and all sorts of disease causing micro-organisms?

    Has any one ever asked Jennifer if the plastic bag ban might be putting the health of food store workers at risk because it forces them to handle disease carrying recyclable cloth bags?

    • For years and years I have seen seniors in san JOse who already carry the cloth bags themselves. They apparently don’t have a problem with it. they get the idea. And guess what? Most of them are immigrants who came from countries where this is already been done for years. and years. And in thsoe countries, no outcry about diseases carried in their bags.

      There are more diseases and fecal matter in all the hotdogs and fastfood you eat, Typhoid Mary. But you probably don’t want those banned either. right?

      • how many people will bring bags from home that will have roaches in them? Watch that sucka crawl across the counter where others have to put their items. Bags are roach havens. Just as they get into furniture and clothes…and transported, they will get into bags…and get transported. Extremely unhealthy.

    • If you read the story carefully, the Environmental Services office said very few complaints have come in about *violations* by stores ignoring the law.

    • “Palo Alto was a bit ahead of us, Sunnyvale is right on our heels, Milpitas is looking at [a bag ban], and other cities are looking at it but it’s hard to say if it’s going to move,” says Sam Liccardo, a San Jose city council member.

      Palo Alto is already a very unique town. Many would say that it feels like a European town. I haven’t been to EU so I don’t know how to comment. However even then Palo Alto is smart enough to tread lightly on the issue. They only start applying the ban on the city’s six major grocers(supermarkets) and they focus on just plastic bags to see how it works out other bags are not affected. Unlike San Jose who wants to run before it learns to walk on the issue by regulating other bags as well and covering anyone that retails despite it not been able enforce basic health, blight, and sanitory ordinances on many stores on its ghetto Eastside. I am also surprised only the most Ghetto cities(SJ, Sunnyvale, Milpitas) in the south Bay that are proposing this nonsense while the nicer ones such as Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertion, Los Altos won’t even think about it.

  15. Big deal. Travel to Denmark and discover that everyone brings bags to the market because they charge for bags if you don’t. It didn’t take long for the consumer to adjust and throw a few bags in the trunk of their car. I’ve been using them for several years. I get sick and tired of seeing all the windblown trash and bags ending up in the creeks and fields. I agree that food containers need to be made of biodegradable material as well.

    • 5 million people in the entire country of Denmark.  One million people in San Jose alone.  Apples and oranges in lifestyle, shopping venues and population density.

      • What difference does it make what the size of the community is?  Each individual still has to carry things from the store in each country.  Because we are bigger, we have to be coddled with free disposable bags?  The only difference is that we are used to wasteful habits and feel entitled to continue them.

  16. We are starting a movement to overturn the bag ban in San Jose. We know that most of the people are opposed to the ban (otherwise, why weren’t they using “reusable” bags all along?), but are the grumbling silent majority.
    And by the way, we have attempted to contact the plastics industry and these other “evil” entities that are supposed to be opposing this ban, and heard just silence! We believe the real “well funded and organized” proponents are the “green” movements, who have targeted plastic bag bans city by city in order to force the common people to become “green minded”. Never mind if the plastic bag ban actually accomplishes anything. As others have pointed out, accomplishing something real was not the goal here. Controlling the masses was the goal.
    Join us at http://www.saveourbags.com, or email us at saveourbags@gmail.com
    Let’s all work together to overturn this bag ban. As you can see, San Jose is the great “shining example” to all the other cities. Let’s make it a shining example of the people speaking out against misled politicians!

    • As usual, many folks will remain behind the times, but San Jose is only on the front end of a march to eliminate plastic bags statewide.  You can keep chasing cities where you can get your fix of plastic.  Great economic decision as you spend more money on gas in order to save a few dimes on paper bags (or $5 for reusable bags one time).

      Within the next few years, the state of California will implement the plastic bag ban statewide and San Jose shoppers will be well prepared, having tried it out in advance.  In the meantime, neighboring cities will implement the ban and the naysayers will have to drive even more out of their way.

      The free market doesn’t always look out for the interests of the people and the environment.  I’m glad that most of our elected leaders put those interests in the forefront when making policy.  That’s the point of regulated capitalism.

      • “You can keep chasing cities where you can get your fix of plastic.  Great economic decision as you spend more money on gas in order to save a few dimes on paper bags (or $5 for reusable bags one time).”

        It’s the principal. If that costs me more for gas, then so be it. I can shop on my way home from work and not spend a nickle more in gas.

        • So either we tolerate any and all behavior, even if it pollutes our drinking water, kills people with asthma, and results in homeless people dying for lack of healthcare, or else we are socialists?

          By the way, I believe that giving taxpayer handouts to oil companies is far more socialist than making sure that our food supply is safe and our environment is clean.  Interesting that those who cry “socialist” every time they disagree with policy support the former and oppose the latter.

        • Equating banning plastic bags to killing people with asthma and other hyperbole is the hallmark of the environazi movement. Next we will be pushing old people off cliffs in wheelchairs, clutching a plastic bag no doubt.  Why is it that you folks believe that people are evil and mother earth should rid herself of this infection?  Where you people raised in some overly oppressive homes that instilled an innate sense of guilt just for your mere existence? 

          How about we celebrate man’s continual advancement of knowledge which includes incredible technology?  It isn’t plastic bags that are the problem, it is people misusing them.  Yet your kind wants to simply ban them instead of addressing the root problem.  A mainstay of socialism is the ability of the government to control everyone’s behavior in order to “protect people from themselves”.  Yes, excessive government regulation is a socialist tactic.

        • > Where you people raised in some overly oppressive homes that instilled an innate sense of guilt just for your mere existence?

          Perhaps you intended this as a rhetorical question.

          But the actual answer is “Yes”.

          The envirowackos were oppressed as children in the sense that they were indoctrinated into believing that they were especially smart and especially gifted and had a special mission to save the planet.

          Mere working class schlubs are too stupid and venal to save the planet.  Only “special” people have the vision and intellectual capacity to save an entire planed.  Working class schlubs can barely make the payments on their pickup trucks.  How in the hell are they going to save a planet.

          The “intellectuals” behind the envirofascist movement —people like Paul Erlich, Al Gore, Arne Naess, James Hansen, etc, etc—believe that the ecological “bearing capacity” of the planet is only a few million or so, and the rest of the six billion people on the planet need to—ahem—go away.

          The ecofascist way to make people “go away” is to “de-develop” the world economy, starve everyone of energy, resources, and land, until “the virus that is humanity” disappears from the planet—except for them, or course.

  17. Is that the message?  That we who think this ban is bad are just ignorant and should take a small amount of extra time to adjust?  I’m sick of people telling me that somehow I hate the environment simply because i want to be able to accomplish my day to day chores with as little inconvenience as possible. 

    The government shouldn’t be allowed to tell a company which type of bags they can and cannot use for their customers.  I don’t live in a country where people’s day to day habits are controlled and we think that government has our best interests in mind.  We try and let the free market and the people decide what are best.  This just is another small chip away at our freedoms.  Chip, chip chip.  There will be plenty more.

    I’m lucky enough to live on the border of SJ, so for now I’m shopping anywhere but.  This bag ban needs to be repealed.  We should start gathering signatures.

  18. Just completed my final grocery run ever in San Jose. Los Gatos safeway is same distance away. After all the silliness about the dumb bag ban I won’t waste another second in SJ stores. Good job Liccardo. If I was a San Jose grocer I’d be pounding my fist on city halls doors. My neighbors all seem to agree. Once again the city council made it even harder for businesses to survive in SJ. Congrats

  19. Look, we need to get a few things straight- I don’t think any of us who are against the bag ban want to see people who litter and pollute the environment get off scott free.  Anyone who is breaking the law deserves to be held accountable.

    What is crappy here is social engineering and pushing through certain mandates that violate free choice.

    Like I said in an earlier post, my family recycles and/or repurposes plastic bags.

    There should be a greater crack-down on litterers!  It makes me sick when smokers flick their cigarettes out a car window!  So track the suckers down and fine them!

    We need to realize that this isn’t about BAGS.  It is rather about a minority pushing through legislation after legislation that erodes LIBERTIES and CHOICES in favor of rules and regulations that will fundamentally remake America into something that is barely recognizable from our noble founders’ intentions.

    We already have a EUROPE!  Let AMERICA remain AMERICA!

    If anyone thinks this is stupid, they are failing to see the larger picture.

    This country is losing the qualities that made it unique and a shining light in the world.  Liberals like Obama and Pelosi don’t believe in American Exceptionalism, but rather a country founded on inequality and lies.  Yes, we made some mistakes, but our guiding principals won out in the end.

    It’s the big picture that drives this debate!

  20. Very well stated. Pretty soon we will have to remove “Land of the Free….” and change it to “Land of Used To Be Free”. When our liberties and choices become eroded…we are no longer free and that appears where we are headed. Government needs to take a step back.

  21. Our San Jose rivers used to sustain Salmon and Steelhead. Come take a look at the next Countywide Cleanup is National River Cleanup Day.

    May 19, 2012
    9:00am to Noon

    • > Our San Jose rivers used to sustain Salmon and Steelhead. Come take a look at the next Countywide Cleanup is National River Cleanup Day.

      Plastic bags aren’t the problem.

      It’s all the shopping carts, debris, and garbage dumped in the rivers by the urban aborigines—er, I mean “homeless”.

    • These cleanup days are an excellent opportunity for people to participate in a ritual that allows them to go home feeling really good about themselves. That’s about it.
      99% of the trash you’ll pull out of the creek come May 19th will be trash that was put there by the homeless bums and on May 20th the homeless bums will get right back to work putting more trash back in.
      You want to keep the Guadalupe clean and hospitable to salmon and steelhead? Then insist that the City get serious about not allowing the homeless to set up camp on the riverbank. The City’s got us jumping through hoops in the name of the environment- and in this plastic bag ban instance I’m happy to comply. But maybe now it’s time for them to hold up their end of the bargain so that we don’t get the idea that this ‘green’ San Jose stuff is all about image and not about substance.

  22. I partipate every year in the creek clean up here, and the majority of trash is plastic bags!  Homelessness is a major part of the problem, but compared to the rest of the population in the city they only make up a small fraction of the population who knowingly or unknowingly litter. We need to start somewhere so would it kill you to use a reuseable bag. This seems like a no brainer.

    • Everytime I visit downtown or the river area I see the homeless often hoard plastic bags on their bags or shopping carts for their needs. The homeless often use the bags to contain CRV items they find laying around to get cash. The problem now is there money no rewards for plastic bag recycling so they get left behind. If we give refunds for plastic bag recycled or composted at stations just as with cans and bottles than the homeless as well as other citizens would take pride in turning these in as well. This is really a much more effective solution for the environment compared to a ban or tax.

  23. I support the ban on plastic bags…It is not that much trouble to cart around a burlap sack to hold all your purchases.  I am only outraged that the City has exempt Food Stamp recepients from sharing in the cost of the ban.  Why are they a protected class under this ban?  Sounds like the City Council wants to be politically correct….Why should a lazy shiftless Welfare person not be subject to the same rules…as the rest of us?????

  24. As always they are trying to enforce something by law that should be an individual choice! Is anyone ready to take the “bull” by the horns and try to get this law overturned? It is not enough to just talk and blog about it. I have never done this kind of thing before, but I have had enough and am researching how this can be stopped. At the very least it should be put to a vote. If anyone here has experience and/or wants to help, I would like to hear from you.

  25. OUTRAGE ON TOP OF OUTRAGE!!!!

    When I went to my local Home Depot to buy an assortment of screws and parts, necessity required me to spend an additional ten cents to buy a “made from recycled materials in America (undoubtedly by union workers)” brown paper bag.

    But being forced to buy a bag was not the only indignity.  MY brown paper bag, which I purchased with my own money, also carried a thoughtful propaganda message (“Recycle this bag”) courtesy of the Envirofascist-Government Complex.

    In my past life as a sales representive for a large company, the corporate legal beagles warned that similar arramgements could be deemed to consitute a legally suspect “tie in sale”.

    “In order to buy this bag, you must also by this propaganda message”.

    Where is Teddy Roosevelt and his Trustbusters when you really need them?

  26. Stop me before I choke an Enviro-wacko!

    I was stocking up on some comestibles at a well known food market beloved by people who drive Priuses and fear global warming.

    I took my handful of items into an open checkout lane manned by a very bored looking cashier and a very bored looking bagger.

    The cashier looked at me with a painfully weak “I’m here to help” expressing and said:

    “We have to wait on the customer ahead of you.  He went out to his car to get his cloth bag.”

    No problem, I thought.  I’ll just go out to my car and get my chainsaw just to make sure the other guy can get into his car.

    • I’ve been using burlap sandbags until the floods come at which time I‘ll switch to empty rice sacks and 80 pound cement bags.  Worst case scenario old pillow cases.

  27. Listen, I went to Europe NO ONE Brings their own bags and NO ONE gets charged for the paper bags that they receive.  Yes, some bring cloth bags to the supermarket, but not to every single f’n store they shop in.  I felt like an arse walking out of Macy’s with 5 articles of clothing for my child.  It was as though I was robbing the place.  Which I hope the shoplifters begin to do.  Nothing is stopping them now.  And if they are minority no one can stop and ask them if they paid for the items they are carrying.  A year from now the retailers will rebel against this law when people shop outside of San Jose and when shoplifters leave the store with their items.

    • Precisely. Can you just imagine what a bagless Europe would do to tourism? They are having the same bag wars in Europe as we are having here. This is a lot of greenie generated legend. They think if they repeat something often enough it is true. Unfortunately the gullible public buys into all this nonsense.

      It is one thing to bring your own bag where people make small purchases every day with visits to the butcher ,the baker and the vegetable stand. But modern life is no longer like that. To expect people to bring their own bags to giant mega malls or one stop shopping centers is insane.

    • I have stopped shopping in SJ but I had to go the the store, the other day, and would buy no more than four items. I carried them in my arms. At the checkout, the cashier asked me if I wanted to purchase a bag. I told her that I didn’t because I do not agree with the bag ban and I am protesting. She told me, “Well other people don’t believe in the bag ban either but they still buy a bag.” She was insulted because I wouldn’t buy a bag and she didn’t hesitate to show the discuss on her face. I couldn’t figure what that was all about, but…too bad.

  28. Like a baby that first learns to stand – consider acts like cracking down on outdoor smoking and banning plastic bags as being witness to our council’s first tyranny baby steps. 

    Once Liccardo, Cortese, and others get that first taste of tyranny.  They’ll want more.  After all, they’re saving us from ourselves dontcha know.

    Just look at how well our little supervisor tyrant Ken Yeager is doing banning happy meal toys and imposing economic tyranny in the form of California Air Resources Board regulations – all in the name of an environmental hoax that goes by the name global warming.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUUdWVLZuV0

    Limited government, economic liberty, and individual freedom – that’s the ticket.

    Starve the beast.

  29. If you know that a law like this would go down in flames if subject to a general vote (does anyone really question this??), then what business do you have enacting such a law?  It’s really a matter of what the council thinks it can get away with if no one is paying attention or, as this article demonstrates, if no one understands how to effectively complain (or if complaints are simply being ignored and not reported).  Truly frustrating because there is no question that this law would fail if subject to a vote.  And the mentality that sometimes people just need to change their ways – if there is democratic support for a change, then great.  Otherwise, stay out of my business.  These folks are entirely insulated from reality.

  30. Plastic bag ban?  So weak. 

    “LA County OKs $1,000 Fine For Throwing Football, Frisbee On Beaches”

    SoCal just threw down. 
    So what else you got Liccardo/Yeager/Cortese?

    You gonna just sit there and just let Socal bust a cap on your little NorCal tyrant *ss?  Or are you gonna show ‘em what NorCal tyrants are all about?

    - Illegal immigrants fly free out of Mineta International?
    - Citizens must lower their eyes during their 2 minute address to the council?
    - A proclamation making BLT’s the official sandwich of San Jose?

    The world is waiting and watching.

    • > … and migration to it’s home in the South Pacific ….

      Oh, bunk.

      The mammoth floating island of used condoms and plastic debris in the South Pacific is a lie.

      I’ve stored sprinkler parts and things in plastic bags.

      The bags bio-degrade into a handful of powder in a year or so.

      You absolutely cannot believe leftist activists about anything.

      They make things up just to win their arguments.  Nothing is more important to them than winning the argument and feeling really smart.

      Truth be damned.

  31. Random responses …

    E Coli and other bacteria are ubiquitous, reusable bags or not.  Cook meat thoroughly and wash fruits and veggies. 

    It is the small pieces of plastic that are a big part of the problem. Fish and other sea creatures consume them and plastic is not a healthy diet.

    • > It is the small pieces of plastic that are a big part of the problem. Fish and other sea creatures consume them and plastic is not a healthy diet.

      Have you, PERSONALLY, ever seen a fish consume a small piece of plastic?

      Have you, PERSONNALLY, every seen an “other sea creature” consume a small piece of plasitic?

      Did you, PERSONNALLY, conduct a long term assessment of the effect of the consumption of the small piece of plastic on the fish or other sea creature?

      Was the long term health assessment you conducted peer reviewed?

      I’m sure that the answers to all of these questions are all “NO”.

      The point is, if plastic bags are an important element of your PERSONAL plastic bag alarmism, virtually all of the alarmism is INSIDE OF YOUR HEAD!!

      This is generally true of much of the envionmentalist alarmism, and it is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT TRUE of Global Warming alarmism. It is literally a state of mind—A MENTAL CONDITION—and not a statement of external objective reality.

      Polar bear populations are NOT declining.

      The Himilayan glaciers are NOT melting,

      The sea level is not rising seven feet per century.

      And on, and on.

      Give yourself a whack on the forehead and get over it.

      • Those things aren’t true because YOU say so?  Have you PERSONALLY measured the glaciers, or studied sea levels, or counted polar bears?  I didn’t think so.  Hold yourself to the same standard you expect from others.  Just because you don’t want to believe bad news doesn’t make it untrue.

  32. There are no bag wars in Europeon cities, that is completley false. Also, it is well docummented that there are floating plastic island in EVERY ocean. Plastic does bleak apart into little peices but when animals eat them they cannot digest the inorganic material and so they die. Again, that is well documented and a fact, look it up. Plastic bags were created to be conveniant and they are, but it’s trash that ends up screwing up the enviroment, that is fact. I can’t beleave people are using words like tyranny of the city council, are lives are so lost, when will it end. Our oceans are dying, fish stocks are collapsing. Is that so hard to beleave? It is it a consparacy by the Monteray Bay Aquarium and it’s’ liberal scientist sounding the alarm, in hope to cash in on higher attendence? The ocean is becoming more acidic because of pollution. I think anyone who denies this is just a lazy thinker, it’s well documented. The time is now for some testicular fortitude! Bring your own bag to the store and quit being a bunch big babies.

    • No bag wars eh? Obviously you have never been to Europe.

      The link below is an excellent example of the same type of BS we have here. Right down to the comments. From the very people who live there.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/20/europe-plastic-bag-ban

      Meanwhile in Ireland they have found banning plastic bags has not made on iota of difference in the litter and use of plastic bags other than people buying more single use trash bags. Google it.

    • > Also, it is well docummented that there are floating plastic island in EVERY ocean.

      Really!

      Could you possible post authentic, un-Photoshopped photographs of a floating plastic island in each ocean in the world?

      I am particularly interested in seeing your photograph of the floating plastic island in the Arctic Ocean.

      For extra credit, if the Arctic Ocean floating plastic island also provides habitat for polar bears, please post a photo of the polar bears on the floating plastic island.

    • Kathleen:

      Thanks!  Great catch.

      It’s amazing how the political lemmings were stampeded into their stupid bag ban without even thinking about things like this for second.

      Ready! Fire! Aim!

  33. You think this is all are charade by, let me guess, Al Gore and his alarmist voices who gain nothing?? The people that gain are the people from the industry who make all the money. Do you really think that turtles eating balloons are smart enough to know the difference if it’s food or a jelly fish?? I have never studied pathology of animals, but I have studied oceanography. If everything was fine I guess my textbooks would have been a lot less than they were. As a fisherman and outdoorsman I can tell you from experience that a person can see it in the stomachs of the fish you eat. Let me ask you this, why are all the corrals in the world dying? Is it an elaborate hoax, or is it because of farming and the runoff that has an impact and make the oceans more acidic, scientist call them dead zones.  I a scuba diver and I have been witness to this in multiple oceans, no corrals equals no fish. When fish stocks go down the price goes up. Find a scientist that says fish stocks are stable and that person will be the only one in the world with that opinion. This is just simple supply side economics that most us studied in High School. Do you really think that what we do as a people, alongside with our growing population has nothing to do with the health of the planet? Do you believe in mathematics?? This is just a simple Algebraic problem. Your argument sounds more like an excuse to do nothing, because it forces you to take responsibility for your (our) actions. Show me proof that actions have no consequences. I think the alarmist have shone plenty of proof and no one has shown anything to the contrary? You are right, Polar Bears are not going extinct, they are moving into the cities to find food, because their habitat is quickly disappearing or is that another myth by the radical left. On yahoo the other day, it showed Polar Bear trying to eat a homeless woman.  Maybe someone went through the trouble of making a green screen video to paint a bad light for the Polar Bear. Animal control was probably sent out to will kill them for getting to close to people.  Their population is decreasing by that effect, it just depends how you see the world. Not believing in any conservation is a good way to justify your selfish daily behavior. Having your weakness exposed seems to be the only fear you seem to have.

  34. Until I decided to do some shopping at Valley Fair.  Normally I shop up in the east bay where no bag ban is in effect.  When every place at Valley Fair turned sheepish and apologized for having to charge an extra ten cents for paper bags, I then truly realized the impact.  I tried to console myself with thoughts of turtles, birds and fish running wild and free without being tortured by us evil humans.  But, in the end, I just resolved not to shop in the south bay and keep my spending dollars in the east bay where I probably should anyway.

  35. When the clerk asks if you brought a bag or want to purchase a paper one, just tell the bagger to place all your groceries back in the cart.  Then when they ask if you need help out, say yes.  Have the bagger push your cart to your vehicle and then load each individual purchase into your car from the shopping cart.  If everyone does that, perhaps the stores will stop worrying about being PC and join in the fight to put things back to a more rational level.

  36. @ Maynard – I actually went to Germany for a month last year and traveled all over the country. Shoppers in Germany have been using their own bags for years now and seem to have the best economy in Europe. I should not assume that Ireland has no social wars, throughout the ages they have been the only bastion of reason and sensibility in Europe. I am pretty surprised Guardian would use the term War to describe an inconvenience for consumers, especially when there are pretty of other “real wars” going on in the world.

    @ IRATWMA – I’m sure Valley Fair and Santa Row are really hurting from not receiving your East bay dollars. If you’re forced to shop at Valley Fair maybe you can voice your concern to the teen ager behind the counter. This topic here on Inside San Jose seems to be very controversial on this site. This article was written back on January 12 and 93 comments and counting. Write back so maybe we can break one hundred comments before three months go by.

  37. I get my groceries in Los gatos now, on my way home from work.

    Why are wic,  welfare, food stamp folks getting free paper bags? Why doesn’t the ban affect everyone equally?

    Thanks for the gas idea! I’m going to buy gas in Lg or other towns . Starve it!

  38. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!!!!!

    @ Novice – Global Warming is killing the homeless. Those are your words not mine. You’re making this too easy for me. If you take away a habitat for a certain type of animal, that animal will look for food somewhere else. That was the premise for the book “Who stole my Cheese”. Where do critters go to scavenge for food, the inner city garbage dumps, so yes, climate change is not good for the homeless or the Polar Bear in Alaska?

    @ Typhoid Mary – I am sure that you are right, there are corals left in the world. That was a bad choice of words on my part. If there were no corrals left then there would be no fish at all. From my own experience, as a fisherman and scuba diver, I would say the corals of ALL oceans are in trouble. This is well documented by real scientists.  If you don’t believe me than just set your DVR to “Shark Week” and they mention it several times. Although, I have only went diving in: Bali, Venezuela, Tobago and Trinidad, Cozumel, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and off coarse Monterey Bay.
    I don’t really understand your Rodeo comment? I may have said something about the fertilizer run-off that flows from the Mississippi and other rivers to Gulf of Mexico? In which has created dead zones in the gulf because that type of pollution makes sea water more acidic? 
    I did meet some German Scientist in Bali that built cages to bring back the corrals in that particular beach area. They were sending low voltage current to cages that would help the corrals grow back at a faster rate. These guys were like rock stars in area because better diving equals more tourists. That beach was littered with nothing but broken off dead white corrals the entire stretch of the Singaraja beach.

    @ Back of Man, I’m A Scientist (Bill Murray wants his line back) There is a wealth of evidence out there on line that plastic has gathered in all vortexes of every ocean. I guess the earth may not be as flat as you think it is.
    Climate change is real, just ask the Koch Brothers.

    http://www.saynotoplastics.com/plastic-facts/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch
    http://www.ehow.com/about_4565764_trash-ocean.html
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090820-plastic-decomposes-oceans-seas.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxNqzAHGXvs
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/142558-facts-about-plastic-waste/
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1914145,00.html

    http://www.saynotoplastics.com/plastic-facts/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch
    http://www.ehow.com/about_4565764_trash-ocean.html
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090820-plastic-decomposes-oceans-seas.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxNqzAHGXvs
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/142558-facts-about-plastic-waste/
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1914145,00.html