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Pittsburg OKs plastic bag ban

Pittsburg OKs plastic bag ban
By Eve Mitchell
Contra Costa Times
POSTED: 10/22/2013 03:05:56 PM PDT | UPDATED: ABOUT 15 HOURS AGO

PITTSBURG — Say goodbye to plastic bags in Pittsburg.

Over the objections of the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce, the City Council voted 5-0 to ban single-use plastic bags as a way to reduce blight and keep flyaway bags out of nearby waters and from littering streets. The ban was tentatively approved Sept. 16.

While the ordinance now has final approval, council members agreed to review it in a year to see if any changes are needed.

“I would be amenable if we had a condition for it to be looked at annually, at least the first three years,” Vice Mayor Sal Evola said before the vote.

Some small businesses had concerns about the ordinance, said Harry York, the chamber’s chief executive officer. He asked the council to hold off on approval, make some changes and bring it back for consideration at a later meeting.

“Let’s make it a better ordinance,” he said.

The ordinance should be changed to get rid of a provision that calls for all retailers to make reusable bags available either for sale or as a limited-time promotion item to customers, he said.

“The way the ordinance is written now is that it would require all retail businesses to provide (a) reusable bag. That would mean a tire store, a furniture store or a mattress store,” York said.

He also asked that the reporting requirement be dropped for small businesses and questioned how much impact the ban would have. “What is the net gain?” York asked, if people have to buy plastic trash bags to replace the free plastic bags that could be used to hold trash.

The ordinance goes into effect Jan, 15. It calls for retailers to charge a minimum of 10 cents for a paper bag during the first year of the ordinance, 15 cents the second year, and 25 cents for the third year and beyond. Those fees would go to retailers to help support marketing efforts to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags.

Shoppers who use food stamps or Women, Infant and Children vouchers would not have to pay for paper bags. The ban does not apply to restaurants, dry-cleaning bags, charitable organizations such as thrift stores, or protective bags used for fresh produce, meat, prepared foods and prescription medicine.

Brentwood and Oakley are considering bans, while Antioch is not. In June, Richmond became the first Contra Costa city to approve a plastic-bag ban, followed by El Cerrito in August.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on