Sonoma County supervisors support plastic bag ban

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave its formal support to an ordinance that would ban carryout plastic bags at checkout lines countywide and add a 10-cent fee for each paper bag.

The 4-1 vote, with Supervisor David Rabbitt dissenting, constitutes the county's direction to its appointee on the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, the joint county-city body that has been studying and developing the ban for two years and would adopt and enforce the ordinance.

Supervisors said it was long overdue. Similar measures have now been implemented in more than 75 cities and counties across the state. That list now includes Los Angeles, where councilmembers approved a bag ban Tuesday, making it the largest U.S. city to do so.

"In many ways as a county we are really behind the curve here," said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who represents the county on the waste management agency board.

The ordinance needs unanimous support from all 10 voting members on the board. Three cities — Sonoma, Windsor and Sebastopol — have given their support so far.

Rohnert Park, where council members have voiced concerns about impacts on businesses, could represent a hurdle. The city council is set to take up the measure June 25.

The regulation is meant to shift consumers to reusable bags to reduce litter and address other environmental impacts. An estimated 260 million plastic bags and 46 million paper bags are used in Sonoma County every year.

American shoppers have favored plastic bags in checkout lines since the late 1970s. But many end up in landfills after a single use or end up cluttering the landscape and water bodies.

"Plastic bags have choked our local streams since their introduction," said Supervisor Mike McGuire. "Moving forward with this ordinance will improve our local environmental conditions for years to come."

Rabbitt, the board chairman, said he was not opposed to a ban on plastic bags, but he voiced opposition to the fee on paper bags, calling it a tax.

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