Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday advanced a proposal to ban plastic bags now given out to shoppers at grocery and other retail stores, but called for a single ordinance that would apply countywide.
The ban would start in July 2013 and apply to what are termed "single-use carryout bags." It would not extend to bags used to hold meat and vegetables, or apply to restaurants. It also would levy a 10-cent fee for paper bags, which merchants would collect and keep. That fee would rise to 25 cents a bag in 2014.
A fine schedule starting at $100 and rising to $500 for a third violation in a year would be included.
Not yet settled are questions about who would enforce the ban and whether it would be the same countywide or perhaps vary among cities, an option that store owners oppose.
The supervisors' unanimous action signaled their clear support for a ban.
"The time has come," Supervisor Mike McGuire said. "We've discussed this for the better part of half a decade now."
But the board also stated its preference for one countywide ordinance. It gave its representative on the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency -- which would adopt and administer the ordinance -- the authority to support only that option.
"What's most important to me is consistency. It gives a level playing field," Supervisor Efren Carrillo said.
At the Mendocino Avenue Safeway on Tuesday, Alan Lockler said he would favor a ban. "Much as I hate to lose the convenience, I think it's a good idea. I'll give it up to save a duck," he said, referring to wildlife becoming entangled in discarded bags.
Similar proposals elsewhere have spurred complaints of over-regulation, but none were voiced Tuesday and supervisors said it would help the environment.
"This is about protecting our rivers, protecting our coast, protecting our creeks," said Carrillo. "This is long overdue."
The ordinance also would move the county toward its goal of diverting 90 percent of curbside and drop-off waste from the landfill by 2020, said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the board chairwoman.