San Carlos recently became the 15th city on the Peninsula to outlaw retailers from distributing plastic bags, according to Assistant City Manager Brian Moura.
The county ordinance — adopted by San Carlos — permits retailers to sell recycled paper bags to customers for a minimum of 10 cents each, according to officials. The paper bags must be made of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content.
Unlike a dozen other cities within San Mateo County, San Carlos delayed implementation of the legislation in response to concerns from the business community.
"We moved the start date after a survey with the retailers in the city; a number of them indicated they wished to use up their remaining stock of plastic bags," Moura said.
According to the survey, seven retailers support the ordinance, five oppose it and two are neutral. Five retailers that opposed the ordinance said that they were unable to exhaust their current supply of bags within 90 days.
Even though many retailers voluntarily began distributing recyclable bags, some, like Bianchini's Market, exhausted their supply of bags just hours before the ban took effect, Moura said.
Eliminating the plastic bags from retail distribution solves many problems for waste management.
"Plastic bags create challenges wherever they show up," said Robert Reed of Recology.
For example, even though many plastic bags are made from recyclable material, they often get bundled with paper bails. As a result, special sorters are required to manually extract errant plastic bags, Reed said.
Using a canvas carry bag, Reed said, was the best option to reduce refuse. Of the 20 cities in San Mateo County — 18 of which have retail shops — 17 have adopted, or plan to adopt, similar bag-ban ordinances. Woodside is the only city not to enact the county ordinance.
The ordinance excludes restaurants and nonprofit re-use organizations, such as Goodwill, Moura said.