Santa Rosa may pull out of Sonoma County's plastic bag ban

Santa Rosa may bow out of a countywide ban on single-use plastic bags, dooming a two-year effort to build support for the measure.

Instead of backing the ban proposed by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, city officials are recommending the City Council draft its own ordinance.

Doing so would allow the city "to retain local control and enforcement authority to better serve our community," according to a report by Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips.

The countywide ban requires a unanimous vote of the 10 members of the Waste Management Agency. If Santa Rosa decides not to participate, it would kill the countywide ban.

The agency is a joint powers authority created in 1992 to increase recycling efforts. Sonoma County and its nine cities are all members.

Mayor Scott Bartley said the issue comes down to whether the city should allow other jurisdictions to have enforcement authority over businesses in the city.

"We don't want to give up the policing authority to the county," Bartley said. "That's the bottom line."

Some supporters of the ban were taken aback by the city's apparent change of heart after two years of support — albeit lukewarm — for the effort.

"I was just totally surprised to see that," Cotati Councilwoman Susan Harvey said of the city report.

A countywide ban has been discussed for more than five years as a way to reduce litter and reliance on oil-based products. A regional approach is viewed by many as the best way to create consistent rules and protect smaller communities from lawsuits brought by the plastic bag manufacturers lobby.

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