TRUCKEE, Calif. — The days of the disposable plastic bag in Truckee may be numbered.
Based on positive feedback from town representatives and residents on a detailed single-use plastic bag ban proposal, Truckee Town Council has asked staff to bring a proposed ordinance for a first reading next month.
“I just want to say how excited I am that we’re at this point,” said Missy Mohler, executive director of the Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. “I want to celebrate the consideration and commend you for the work you have done.”
The proposed ordinance calls for a ban of single-use carryout bags less than 2.5 millimeters thick at all grocery, convenient, pharmacy and retail stores within town limits, said Nichole Dorr, town recycling coordinator. Retailers would be required to charge a minimum 10-cent fee for a recycled paper or reusable bag.
Further, stores would be required to track the number of recycled paper and reusable bags sold to customers annually for three years, she said. Retailers won’t be able to provide customers with a credit, rebate or refund on the bag charge.
Distribution of free reusable bags by impacted businesses would be allowed as part of a limited time promotion, not to exceed a total of 90 days within a 12-month period.
“I think the plastic bag is going to be one of those things we look back on and say, we can’t believe that we did that,” said Truckee resident Linda Lindsay. “... I think Truckee has an opportunity here to be a leader and make a decision that is good for the town and good for the environment.”
For now, restaurants would be exempt from the ordinance due to potential litigation and uncertainty of how the Food Safety Code of the State of California regulates single-use plastic bags for food transportation, Dorr said.
“As it’s still kind of being battled, we’re suggestion to kind of hang back and let those battles be fought somewhere else first,” she said.
Additional exemptions include: plastic bags for product packaging; prescription medication from a pharmacy; separation of food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other items when placed together in a reusable bag; and large items such as tires, dry-cleaning and large-format artwork.
The ordinance would be implemented and enforceable nine months after its effective date, in order to give retailers time to use up existing bags, and for a public education effort to be conducted. A six-month extension could be granted, upon a written petition to the town.
Once law, violations would be complaint-driven, with investigations possibly conducted by the town’s code enforcement officer, and action taken based on town municipal code.
“With all these components that are put into this ordinance, we think this is actually the best of the ordinances that have been out there the past year or so in California,” said Tim James, with the California Grocer Association.
The proposal was developed by a community stakeholder group, with representation from town council, business owners and nonprofits, among others, who’ve met four times since July. The group’s goal was to explore options to reduce single-use bag consumption and waste in Truckee, according to previous reports, before agreeing to pursue a ban.
“I probably came to it with some skepticism about whether we we’re doing the right thing, having some unforeseen consequences, but I though it was really well thought-out and really a great collaborative effort,” said council member Joan deRyk Jones, who participated in the stakeholders group. “... I think it’s a good thing to move forward.”
A first reading of the draft ordinance is scheduled for the Nov. 12 town council meeting. A second reading could occur as soon as Nov. 26.
The move comes a week after the South Lake Tahoe City Council adopted its own single-use plastic bag ban ordinance.
While that law will take effect Jan. 15, 2014, for grocers and food vendors and Oct. 15, 2014, for retailers, council members and city staff will continue to discuss the decision to not enact a recycled paper bag fee.
According to the CGA, paper bags cost 6 to 12 cents more than plastic bags. Since grocers rely heavily on plastic and paper bags, CGA estimates banning plastic bags and not requiring a fee for paper bags would cost grocers about $60,000 more annually.
Nonprofit stores that sell donated items and bags used to hold prescription drugs from pharmacies are exempt.
The city of South Lake Tahoe joined roughly 80 California municipalities to ban plastic bags.
Eric Heinz, reporter for Tahoe Daily Tribune, contributed to this report.