Support for a countywide ban on carry-out grocery plastic bags continued to grow this week as two more cities and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors endorsed the concept.
Seven cities and the county now have agreed to take steps toward a countywide ordinance limiting single-use bags under a proposal from the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency.
The focus is on banning the ubiquitous plastic grocery bags and placing a nominal fee on paper bags, so that consumers don't simply switch to paper.
Ultimately, the goal is a consumer shift to reusable bags to cut down on litter and other environmental impacts.
"It's come of age and it's time to move forward," said Healdsburg City Councilman Gary Plass prior to voting along with his colleagues to support single-use, carry-out bag restrictions.
On Tuesday, Sonoma County supervisors unanimously endorsed the work on the bag limitations.
Supervisors Shirlee Zane, Mike McGuire and Efren Carrillo expressed the strongest support, with McGuire saying that plastic bags especially were a blight on the landscape.
Rules that ban plastic bags and put a fee on paper bags have been adopted by more than a dozen cities, including San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Monica, and Santa Clara, Marin and Los Angeles counties.
Still, Supervisors Valerie Brown and David Rabbitt expressed concern about the impact of new rules on consumers and on non-profit agencies that rely on single-use bags.
Both wanted assurances that the board and cities would get first say over eventual draft rules before they headed to the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency for approval. Under the initial proposal, the rules would have needed only the unanimous approval of the waste agency, a joint-powers body made up mostly of non-elected representatives of each of the nine cities and the county.
"For me it's about the process and not feeling comfortable with it," said Rabbitt. "We're the (county's) legislative body."
The board agreed that any draft rules plus a budget for the accompanying environmental impact report, estimated to cost $135,000 to $193,000, would first go to the individual councils and the board of supervisors for approval.
So far, all cities except Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park have expressed broad support for a county-wide crackdown that focuses on plastic bags.
The two remaining cities are scheduled to take up the issue next month.
Patrick Carter, an official with the county Waste Management Agency, said most cities that restrict plastic bags make exceptions for some items such as plastic produce bags.
Overall, he said grocery stores and other retailers are not objecting to restrictions on carry-out bags.
"People are adjusting to it. There's not a huge amount of push-back," he said.
Still to be decided is whether the ban would extend to all retailers, such as department and drug stores.
That is expected to be determined in community meetings that will be part of the environmental impact report before any ordinance is enacted.
Preparing an environmental study is also seen as a way to avoid legal challenges.
Plastic bag manufacturers say the bans are misguided and the emphasis should be on recycling the bags. Besides, they say plastic bags are re-used for a variety of things from handling pet waste, wet bathing suits and dirty diapers.