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.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

Comments (5)
  1. Sad says:

    How sad. I had always saved plastic bags from shopping and put it in a bin at home, that I will use the plastic bag later for trash bags at home, I even use the plastic bag to put spoiled food in to, that will not work so well with paper bags that moisture will cause the paper bag to fall apart. What I don’t understand why we have to pay to recycle our stuff at home to be put out on the street for the city to sell to make money, and then we have to pay to use a recycle paper bag at the store? The city is making money from recycling and they are making money from the residents that pay to give the recycle stuff to the city.

  2. Kerri Hamilton says:

    Most recyclers don’t want the paper bags as they jam up their machines and there isn’t a good market for them. They also end up in our storm drains, creeks and the bay. So plastics bags end up costing us more as taxpayers, both in cleanup costs and in recycling/garbage bills! We’ve only had these bags in the US for the past few decades and we lived perfectly well without them when I was growing up. No need to use the paper bag either, as there are many choices in reusables including insulated ones appropriate for meats & cold items. Reducing is superior to reusing and recycling, even when recycling is possible.

  3. Kerri Hamilton says:

    I meant to say that most recyclers don’t want the Plastic bags in my post above. And the plastic bits that the bags break down into are ending up in the food chain (via plankton, fish & shellfish), which is very bad for our health.