Portola Valley: Council backs bans on plastic bags at checkout, Styrofoam containers
The Portola Valley Town Council has agreed to adopt a San Mateo County ordinance that bans Styrofoam food containers, and support another law that would ban plastic bags at retail checkout stands.
The council — with members Ted Driscoll and Jeff Aalfs absent — adopted "by reference" on April 11 a county ordinance that prohibits food vendors from selling carryout food in containers made of polystyrene, often called Styrofoam. The material cannot be recycled or re-used and contaminates roadsides, waterways and the ocean.
The council plans to take final action April 25, and the law would go into effect 30 days later.
Retailers affected by the polystyrene ban include food trucks that come to town, Roberts Market, the restaurant at the Alpine Hills Swim and Tennis Club, and the Alpine Inn, also known as Rossotti's.
Roberts, the Alpine Hills restaurant and the Portola Cafe Deli have already adopted practices consistent with the polystyrene ban, Brandi de Garmeaux, the town's coordinator for environmental initiatives, said. The town will be contacting Rossotti's, and "has worked quite a bit" with the food trucks, Ms. de Garmeaux said.
In adopting this ordinance by reference, the town joins a regional effort managed and enforced by the county.
Mayor Maryann Derwin and council members John Richards and Ann Wengert also voted to support a proposed plastic bag ban that would require customers at checkout stands who don't have their own reusable bags to pay for new paper ones. A majority on the Woodside Town Council voted to support this proposal in March.
"I think it's great," Ms. Wengert said before voting to support the proposed ban on the bags.
"I do, too," Mr. Richards said.
"It's about time," Mayor Derwin said.
The ban would affect handled plastic bags at checkout counters, not the plastic bags used to package produce and meat.
Paper bags would go for a minimum of 10 cents until Dec. 31, 2014, and 25 cents after that. The point would be to encourage people to shop with their own reusable bags, Dean Peterson, the director of Environmental Health Services for San Mateo County, told the council.
During a discussion of a similar ordinance now in effect in San Jose, Councilwoman Ann Wengert questioned Mr. Peterson on compliance and the effect on families buying lots of groceries. "It's a complete change of behavior," she noted.
Compliance is going well, Mr. Peterson said. "Lately, they've gotten their minds around it."
As for large purchases of groceries, the fact that there's been no data indicates that it's probably not a problem, he said.
"It's a huge change in behavior. ... We need to go back to a more sustainable way of living," Mr. Peterson said. "This is one of the ways we can do that."
A ban on all single-use bags is not unforeseeable, he said, and noted having heard of one store in a Bay Area grocery chain that has checkout counters that have no bags at all.