PITTSBURG -- Add this city to the growing number of Contra Costa communities looking to end the use of plastic bags.

Pittsburg is proposing to stop the distribution of single-use plastic bags in grocery and retail stores, making it the first East Contra Costa city to consider such a ban.

The city is taking public comments until Sept. 9 on an environmental analysis it recently conducted on the issue. The City Council will consider the item at its Sept. 16 meeting, with formal adoption slated for mid-October.

The bags become like "little parachutes" when getting caught in the city's often-gusty winds, quickly accumulating in parking lots, and getting caught in chain-link fences and shrubs along trails, said Laura Wright, the city's waste reduction coordinator. The bags also threaten local waterways and promote blight, she said.

"They can be a menace to the environment. That's why a lot of communities are looking at bans," Wright said. "It will make a dent in the blight and litter around town."

Plastic bag bans have been sweeping California and the nation since 2007, when San Francisco became the first city to ban the bags at grocery stores. Alameda County also enacted a bag ban in January, but the trend has yet to take hold in Contra Costa County. Instead, Contra Costa cities have gone solo.

Richmond became the first city to give the go-ahead on a ban in June, with El Cerrito making that move in August. Richmond's approval came despite objections from some council members and residents who complained the fees may unfairly hit low-income residents.


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San Pablo and Lafayette are also considering such a ban, while Walnut Creek leaders endorsed a statewide plastic carryout bag ban in April.

Pittsburg's ordinance would also impose a minimum 10-cent fee on paper bags for the first year, then rising to 15 cents for year two, and 25 cents for the third year and beyond.

The fee on paper bags is meant as an incentive for consumers to opt to bring their own reusable bags, Wright said.

Similar to other bag bans, the proposed ordinance would include a $250 fine to penalize merchants who don't comply.

The ban does not include plastic bags used by restaurants, plastic garment bags, or bags in grocery stores used for fruits and vegetables.

To this point, Pittsburg has not received a lot of feedback from the public or retailers. Wright said a couple of grocery and drugstore chains familiar with the ban in other communities called for a couple of quick clarifications.

"One asked if it was the same as the one in San Jose, where they had a store. They wanted to make sure they understood," Wright said.

Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce CEO Harry York said his organization and members had not heard about the proposal, and do not have a position on it yet.

Staff writer Robert Rogers contributed to this story. Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

WEIGHING IN
Anyone wishing to comment on Pittsburg's proposed plastic bag regulation ordinance can submit written comments to city planner Kristin Pollot by 5 p.m. Sept. 9, by emailing her at kpollot@ci.pittsburg.ca.us, or faxing 925-252-4814 or mailing them to Kristin Pollot, 65 Civic Ave., Pittsburg, 94565.
Copies of the report can be obtained on the city's website, or Pittsburg's planning department at 65 Civic Ave.