South Lake Tahoe’s plastic bag ban will not apply to retail businesses for up to one more year.
City Council approved the delay Tuesday, after hearing from a number of people who showed up to support the ban taking effect for retail shops in mid-October as planned when it was passed late last year.
Supporters of the ban’s scheduled expansion argued there was no reason to delay the measure. The ban took effect for grocery stores in the city in January.
“The second phase of ban is needed to build on the success of the first phase,” said Aaron Hussman, a community engagement specialist with the environmental group League to Save Lake Tahoe.
“Behaviors are changing and plastic bags from groceries are no long turning up on pristine beaches. The city’s bag ban is a strong message that city leaders are taking steps to reduce litter.”
League to Save Lake Tahoe presented the City Council with a petition of 134 individual signatures and 34 letters of support from businesses supporting the ban’s expansion to retail shops, including letters from some types of businesses such as hardware stores that opponents of the expansion have argued would be harmed by the measure.
Jenna Palacio told City Council that allowing the ban’s implementation to proceed was a simple “yes or no” question about whether South Lake Tahoe wants to reduce the amount of plastic finding its way into the environment.
“In a town that is trying to position itself as a leader in sustainability, a pro-environment town, this is clearly the right move to make,” Palacio said about letting the ban expand to include retail shops.
The delay for up to one year to October 15, 2015 cleared a second and final reading with a 3-2 vote by the South Lake Tahoe City Council.
Mayor Hal Cole and councilors Tom Davis and JoAnn Conner supported the one-year delay, while Brooke Laine and Angela Swanson voted against it.
Conner said the ban would be a hardship for small retail businesses in the city. “Buying paper bags in bulk creates huge problems. It’s an enormous cash outlay at the beginning and then they have to store them. We already have problems with businesses that don’t have enough commercial floor area for goods and products,” she said.
Davis said the measure would not apply to neighboring areas in Nevada or El Dorado County. “If you really want to be effective, pass it at the state level. I support a state ban,” he said. “And council isn’t saying don’t do it, we’re saying delay a year.”
Laine said about her opposition to the delay, “I am embarrassed we are having this conversation again and disappointed in the lack of leadership. We need to step up to the plate and provide good stewardship. This is the environmentally responsible thing to do.”
Swanson agreed. “I appreciate we have a difference in opinion, but it is wearying to keep revisiting an issue for which we have no advocates in the community coming to this body asking us to stop (the ban’s implementation),” she said. “I keep hearing about businesses being harmed, but I’m seeing 10 to 1 that the community would like us to embrace it and work out any issues that arise.”