SAN JOSE (BCN) — The San Jose City Council Tuesday night approved a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags and prohibit retailers from giving out paper bags unless they have recycled content.
The ordinance, proposed three years ago by Councilman Kansen Chu, was approved 10-1, with Councilman Pete Constant dissenting.
The ban will affect all retailers in the state’s third largest city, excluding restaurants, nonprofits and social organizations.
“I think this will be a great model for other cities to follow,” Councilman Sam Liccardo said.
The ordinance, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, permits retailers to provide single-use paper bags that contain a minimum of 40 percent recycled content. They must charge shoppers a fee of 10 cents per bag, which would be increased to 25 cents in two years.
There would be exceptions for retailers that provide plastic or paper bags for items such as fresh produce, meat, or bulk goods.
Susan Marsland, a graduate student at San Jose State University, pulled out a green compact reusable bag that she keeps in her purse and said giving up plastic bags would not be a difficult task for her.
“When I learned about it, not just the pollution, but when plastics decompose in the ocean, the fish eat it, and we eat the fish… I really became alarmed about that,” she said.
Marsland was among about 60 speakers who addressed the council advocating for the ban. Many argued that a ban on plastic bags would lead to a cleaner environment, saving the city money in clean-up efforts.
Lisa Bickford, a resident who referred to herself as the “bag monster,” attended the meeting wearing a costume comprised of 500 bags to symbolize the number of bags an average shopper uses each year.
Advocates said that reusable bags would create an opportunity for green jobs.
Councilwoman Madison Nguyen said reusable sacks are a better alternative because they’re durable and easy to fold and transport.
“This is a great example of smart policy that is good for businesses and for the environment,” she said.
Samantha Dabish, representing the Neighborhood Market Association, opposed the ban, saying that the ordinance will “hurt consumers and small businesses” because they don’t have the same buying power as the bigger stores.
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