South Lake Tahoe City Council repeals portion of plastic bag ban
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — In a vote last week, South Lake Tahoe City Council opted to repeal portions of the city’s ban on single-use plastic bags. The city ordinance will now, once again, only apply to grocery stores and food vendors. Restaurants and other retail establishments are exempt from compliance.
“This was just symbolism,” councilman Tom Davis said of the portion of the ordinance that applied to non-grocery store retailers. The city was not required to enforce the ban on small businesses, but a number of larger businesses like Staples, T.J. Maxx and BevMo! opted to comply.
“The council’s intent was to affect the grocery stores,” city manager Nancy Kerry said of the original purpose of the regulation during an interview with the Tribune earlier this year. “(They) had a very soft approach to anybody other than the grocery stores.”
Davis said he believed the ordinance should always have been geared strictly toward businesses that distributed a large number of plastic bags like Raley’s and Safeway. He said he also supports a statewide ban in that regard. Since neither neighboring Douglas County nor greater El Dorado County have bans in place, however, Davis said he felt the ban on small retailers in South Lake Tahoe was unnecessary.
He also voiced concern that requiring smaller businesses to comply could put added strain on them. He didn’t believe their impact was significant in terms of added waste, especially since South Tahoe Refuse offers plastic bag recycling.
“Show me the evidence that it’s having a negative impact,” he said in response to a number of Tribune letters to the editor opposing the repeal.
The revised ordinance passed by a 3-2 vote with Davis and fellow council members Hal Cole and JoAnn Connor voting for the repeal. New mayor Wendy David and mayor pro-tem Austin Sass voted to keep the existing ordinance.
“This had already been through the vetting process,” David said of her decision. “Our community has been educated on it.”
She added that she would encourage voluntary participation moving forward.
“I’m hoping that continues,” she said. “I see California following shortly.”
Davis also acknowledged that small businesses can continue voluntary participation.
“Nothing in this ordinance precludes small businesses from using paper,” Davis said.
The city’s original plastic bag ban ordinance was presented to council in November 2012. After revision it was it was adopted in October 2013. The policy took effect for grocery stores and food vendors on Jan. 15, 2014, but the portion of the code applying to retail stores was different. Non-grocery retailers were initially expected to comply with the regulation in October 2014, but council pushed the policy to October of this year.
A number of larger businesses like Staples and BevMo! — not regulated under the current ordinance — are likely to continue to provide recycled paper bags instead of plastic. Sources with both Staples and BevMo! confirmed providing paper bags is their intent moving forward.
At the state level, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation prompting a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags for grocery stores. Implementation of the law has since been suspended pending a voter referendum set for California’s November 2016 ballot.
A number of cities and municipalities across the nation, including San Francisco and Sacramento, have grocery bag ban ordinances already in place.