DANVILLE -- Prepare to say goodbye to the plastic bag -- its days in this town may be numbered.
The Town Council is considering an ordinance that would ban the distribution of single-use carryout plastic bags by retailers and restaurants, which would supplement a proposed state law that appears to be gaining momentum, Senate Bill 270, which bans the handout of free plastic bags by retailers and grocers.
But rather than taking a wait-and-see approach on the issue, the town is asking for the public's input and feedback on it now, said Assistant to the Town Manager Nat Rojanasathira.
"The state bill is impetus for us to consider this potential ordinance this summer," he said. "In the next few months, we'd like to receive feedback in the community from residents, restaurants and retailers -- and find out if there's support for a ban similar to what other cities have done."
Plastic bags, which have become public enemy number one for many environmentalists, have now been prohibited in more than 100 California cities and counties, including San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland.
Among them are seven cities in Contra Costa County, Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek, Martinez and Pleasant Hill. And Alameda County has imposed similar restrictions in its cities and unincorporated areas.
Studies have shown that only 5 to 10 percent of these bags are getting recycled, Rojanasathira said. And they are increasingly a source of litter that gets trapped in streams and rivers, harming the environment and wildlife.
"A single bag can take 500 years to decompose -- and that's the conservative number" from various studies, he said.
If the Senate bill sponsored by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, does pass, grocery stores and pharmacies, starting July 1, 2015, would be barred from making free carryout plastic bags available to customers. And a year later, convenience stores and liquor stores would also have to follow suit. Customers would be incentivized into bringing their own reusable bags when they shop -- or else be forced to fork over a 10-cent fee per recycled paper or reusable plastic bag.
The state bill would also require that cities interested in adopting their own more specific local ordinances restricting plastic bags pass their own nonbinding resolutions of intents by Sept. 1, and adopt their own local bans by Jan. 1.
So to prepare for what the town sees as the state bill's likely passage, the town council plans to approve its own nonbinding resolution of intent to pass a bag ban at its Aug. 12 meeting. But no formal decision on such a ban will be made at that time, Rojanasathira said. Essentially, it will give the town more time to consider passing a ban -- and if so, what kind.
So far, the feedback from the community at three town information sessions on a possible ban over the past week has been "across-the-board, with those who support the ban and those who have questions about it," Rojanasathira said. The feedback gathered will help town officials to decide whether to pursue one of four options: do nothing; allow the state ban to take effect if it passes; adopt a local ordinance before the state law passes, essentially pre-empting it; or take a hybrid approach whereby the state law would take effect and the town adopts a more detailed and expansive local ordinance as a companion.
And continued public outreach on the topic will run through early fall, he said. Many residents are still learning about the possibility of a plastic bag ban in their town, but Ellin Sadur and Carolyn Miller said on Friday morning that they both supported one.
"It's a good idea. I don't like seeing (plastic bags) all around. They're bad for landfills and the environment," Sadur said. And Miller agreed, saying the ban shouldn't stop at grocery stores: "I think it should be universal."
Karen Untiedt, of Danville, however, said that she had a bit of mixed feelings about it. Even though she brings her reusable grocery bags on her shopping trips, she'd be a little sad to see plastic bags go away completely.
"I like the plastic bags for veggies and little garbage things," she said. I would miss them."
Meanwhile, Mike Sharkey, store manager of the Danville Lunardi's, said of the chain's eight California locations, his store is the last one without a ban -- all of the others have one in place.
"It's a sign of the times," he said. "And a lot of people are already bringing in their own bags anyway."
Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/joycetsainews.