MARTINEZ -- A plastic bag ban was approved by the Martinez City Council after months of a city-sponsored public relations campaign to prepare the public for its implementation Jan. 1.
Although the bag ban is still six months away, some have been caught by surprise, even though other cities in the region have similar ordinances, public workshops were held and there was local environmentalist support for the ban prior to the council's June 4 vote.
Shoppers who oppose it do not want to be identified, but about one-third of people informally surveyed on Main Street this week oppose it. One resident recycles her single-use plastic bags to pick up dog droppings and take out messy trash.
"I don't know if it will accomplish anything," she said. "I don't like it, but I will go along with it. What else can I do?"
Businesses will not be allowed to provide plastic bags to customers, but may offer paper bags for sale for 10 cents each at the point of sale. People who are receiving food stamps will not be charged, and the ban does not apply to plastic bags without handles that are used to contain produce or dry cleaning.
The farmers market is not exempted, except for bags with no handles, but Michael Chandler, city senior management consultant said, "That is one of the areas where we will continue to reach out, and provide some of the city shopping bags."
The ordinance is patterned after the city of Walnut Creek ordinance and meant to reduce litter, environmental impacts, harm to wildlife, water consumption, solid waste generation and the effect of plastic bags that end up in waterways and the ocean, according to Chandler.
The 10-cent fee is intended to be a disincentive to public use of single-use bags, and the ordinance allows the city manager to raise the price to a maximum of 25 cents in the future.
"The store is allowed to keep the 10 cents," said Chandler.
"I've been through this before. We don't want the 10 cents. We want people to bring their own bag," Martinez CVS manager Chris Walsh said.
Walsh worked in San Jose when a plastic bag ban was initiated and he appears to be taking the Martinez ordinance in stride.
"Some people complain. We just tell them, 'It's for the environment. That is why your City Council voted for it," Walsh said. Martinez will continue its campaign to get the public to conform to the new rule.
"We will continue our distribution of reusable, recyclable (shopping) bags to the public and provide reminder posters to businesses (to post in the window or on a bulletin board)," Chandler said.
The city shopping bags or others that may be available for purchase at local businesses are designed to be used of a period of months, and then recycled a that store or another store.
Mayor Rob Schroder has a city of Martinez shopping bag, but said that the hardest part was remembering to take it in the store.
"I went back to the car to get it," he recalled.
Chandler said the city will also make clear stickers available that can go inside on the car windshield, "like the oil stickers," that will serve as a reminder to take a shopping bag into the store.
When Chandler was asked about a solution for restaurants with takeout business, Chandler admitted, "I don't know what they are going to do. The chamber is working with businesses."
The manager of one of those restaurants, who preferred not to be identified, said she had heard talk of a plastic bag ban, but does not know how she will accommodate her customers.
"Paper bags cost more and what if food spills?" she asked.
"We will be putting (local businesses) in touch with producers of bags that qualify under the ordinance, said John Stevens, Martinez Chamber of Commerce CEO. "The contestants at the King of the County BBQ brought their food over to the judges in containers that looked like Styrofoam, but were not. There are products available that will qualify."
The City Council has an existing, but unenforced ban on the use of polystyrene, however, based on council comments, the focus is on single-use plastic bags right now.
City Engineer Tim Tucker said Martinez has attacked the problem in other ways such as increased litter pickup, and installing trash capture devices in about 60 storm drains in the downtown and along Alhambra Avenue.
"There is an area of floating plastic the size of Texas in the Pacific (Ocean)," Tucker said. "Over 90 jurisdictions in the state have approved plastic bag ban ordinances that impose paper bag fees on customers that do not bring their own reusable bags, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Pittsburg and San Pablo."
Contact Dana Guzzetti at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-202-9292.