The law takes effect on Earth Day (April 22, 2013), and is identical to an ordinance set to go into effect on the same day in Ladera and Emerald Hills and other unincorporated communities of San Mateo County. Retailers may continue to use plastic bags for certain items, such as food to go, prescription drugs, fresh produce, and small parts from hardware stores.
Customers without bags of their own will have to buy a paper one — for 10 cents until Dec. 31, 2014, and 25 cents after that. People receiving food stamps are exempt, and retailers must keep records of the sale of paper bags. (The Woodside Town Council passed a similar ordinance on Jan. 22, but without the record-keeping requirement.)
The county will be enforcing the ordinance. Fines start at $100 and reach $500 for the third and subsequent violations.
Portola Valley adopted its ordinance "by reference" to the county ordinance to take advantage of the extensive background work done by the county, including an environmental impact report (EIR) intended to discourage lawsuits by plastic bag manufacturers. The draft EIR projected a reduction of 34 percent county-wide in ground-level emissions that contribute to acid rain and ozone.
The decision was included in the council's consent calendar — a collection of actions meant to be approved with one vote because they are considered more or less settled. Individual items can be "pulled" from the calendar for further discussion, but the bag ban passed without comment from the council or the public.