The controversial ordinance regarding the distribution of single-use bags in stores will go into effect in San Luis Obispo County on Oct. 1.
The ordinance is meant to extensively reduce plastic bag usage without becoming a complete inconvenience to shoppers. Plastic bags handed out in any retail establishment will be illegal, and while paper bags are not strictly banned, stores must charge a fee if the customer asks to use paper bags. The fee may be determined by the particular store, but must be at least 10 cents. Furthermore, the ordinance mandates that stores sell reusable bags for the customers’ convenience.
The ban specifies establishments which qualify as restricted from using plastic bags in a number of ways, pinpointing all supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience food stores or any other store more than 10,000 square feet. In the case that a store is caught not complying with the ordinance, the repercussions may include $1,000 in penalties per day that the ordinance is violated, and the noncompliance is classified as a misdemeanor according to the ordinance.
The ordinance was passed by the county’s waste management board in January, but allowed time for stores to prepare before it goes into effect.
Businesses around San Luis Obispo have been making efforts to prepare for this ordinance. On-campus establishments are not immune, and must follow the same restrictions.
According to Cal Poly Corporation marketing and public relations manager Yukie Nishinaga, on-campus stores have been restricting the use of plastic bags for years by only supplying them upon request.
“Where there used to be plastic bags available on counters at all times, only a few operations keep bags behind the counter,” Nishinaga said.
While this restriction of plastic bags has been going on for years, it will now change to comply with the explicit ban on plastic bags.
Nishinaga also confirmed that reusable bags will be available at the University Store. For those who do ask for a bag, the store will debut a new line of brown paper bags made out of recycled paper this week, she said.
New Frontiers Natural Marketplace has never used plastic bags, but are now faced with charging for the paper bags they have traditionally used. As an establishment that highly values sustainable practices, New Frontiers attracts many of the more environmentally conscious shoppers in San Luis Obispo. Many of their customers have long been using reusable bags for their groceries, manager Justin Venturini said.
“I’d say it’s about 50-50 right now with customers who bring in bags and customers who don’t,” Venturini said.
More mainstream stores have to make a slightly greater effort to educate customers about the impending ordinance. Albertsons has signs at the checkout lanes to remind customers to start bringing reusable bags, and has already begun pushing the reusable bags they are selling to customers. The store offers a special for getting a free bag for every $30 spent on groceries.
Students have started gearing up for the ordinance as well. Mechanical engineering junior Kyra Wells said she bought reusable bags from Albertsons weeks ago and has been trying to use them ever since.
“I just figured I should get used to bringing bags with me when I go to the grocery store before the ban goes into effect and I don’t have a choice,” Wells said.
Ordinances similar to this one in San Luis Obispo County have been implemented in different areas all over the state since the city of San Francisco approved the first plastic bag ban in 2007.
The main issues argued for the ordinance centered on the effect of plastic bags’ on the environment, particularly on animals in the area and the growing mass of garbage in the Pacific Ocean.
Arguments against the ordinance maintained it would be an annoyance to shoppers and that it is a sign of the government becoming too large and influential.
The plastic bag ban was passed in San Luis Obispo County after an extensive debate eventually decided by the Integrated Waste Management Authority.