BERKELEY -- Citing a cost of about $175,000, the City Council dropped plans to expand a ban on plastic carry out bags to all stores in the city, instead opting for a ban at only the largest stores.
The city will implement a countywide ban on plastic bags at stores with sales of $2 million or more a year that was passed earlier in the year by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority. The ban starting Jan. 1 will apply to about 90 stores in Berkeley.
The City Council dropped plans to expand that ban to another 619 stores in the city.
Councilman Jesse Arreguin argued for the larger ban, saying Berkeley could be "a leader on the issue," but he did not have enough support.
Councilman Gordon Wozniak, who sits on the board of the county waste management authority said banning the bags at larger stores is "a really major start."
" If we had infinite resources we could do it all at once," Wozniak said. " Hopefully, we will get the most bags by concentrating on big stores."
Berkeley was set to pass a law banning bags in 2009, but after the American Chemistry Council sued Oakland over its ban and won, forcing Oakland to rescind it; Berkeley decided to wait. At issue in the courts was how such a ban would negatively affect the environment by forcing consumers to use more paper bags.
Now that the issue has gotten more favorable treatment by the courts after cities prepared themselves with environmental impact reports, more
All 17 cities and unincorporated areas of Alameda County will have a ban in place for big stores on Jan. 1.
For Berkeley, that should cut down on the number of bags that go into the bay each year. In 2009, volunteers picked up 5,017 plastic bags on the bay shoreline of Emeryville, Berkeley and Albany in just three hours. Save the Bay estimates 1 million plastic bags go into the San Francisco Bay each year.
Representatives from Safeway, which has 29 stores in Alameda County, declined to comment. The two Berkeley Bowl Stores and the California Grocer's Association did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.