Orange County Could Jump On Plastic Bag Bandwagon

Voting occurs Tuesday for proposed ordinances in Dana Point and Laguna Beach

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Bans on plastic bags are on the table in two Orange County cities and will be voted on Tuesday. (Getty)

    City council meetings in Dana Point and Laguna Beach will determine if the cities will lead Orange County in banning single-use plastic carryout bags.

    Proposed ordinances banning these plastic bags, and polystyrene—commonly known as Styrofoam—in Dana Point, will be voted on Tuesday in both cities.

    If passed, Orange County will become the fifth county in California to pass such bans, following Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Marin.

    For both cities, it’s not the first time the issue of banning plastic bags and polystyrene has been on the agenda.

    Laguna Beach unanimously passed a polystyrene ban in 2008, and a plastic bag ban has been on the table for about a year and a half, said City Manager John Pietig.

    Laguna Beach held off on their proposed ban because of a lawsuit against Manhattan Beach—who passed their plastic bag ban in 2008—that held up the induction of the ban until just last month, Pietig said.

    Laguna Beach also waited until they could assess the community’s feedback on the ban, expressed in a public workshop held by the city last October.

    Laguna Beach hasn’t received a "significant public outcry" to the proposed ordinance, presumably because of the workshop and the changes made to the ordinance following it, Pietig said.

    Concerns raised at the workshop included how long of a grace period businesses would have to implement the ban and if they could charge 10 cents per recycled paper bag to offset the costs of switching to a more expensive material, Pietig said.

    Both concerns are addressed in the draft ordinance on the city’s website: the 10 cent charge is mandated by the ordinance, and if passed, the ordinance won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2013.

    This would give "local businesses time to complete their inventories and adjust to the change," Pietig said.

    But in neighboring Dana Point, where a city survey of 36 Dana Point businesses revealed that 69 percent use plastic bags, the story is vastly different.

    Dana Point city council planned to vote on the issue last December, but postponed the issue to Tuesday’s meeting following a strong public outcry on the issue, City Clerk Kathy Ward told the Orange County Register.

    The magnitude of this public outcry can be measured by the emails the city has received, which can be found compiled in a document that will be in Tuesday’s meeting agenda on the city’s website.

    Dominated by dissenting opinions from residents and various opponents of the ban, the letters include negative opinions from California Senator Mimi Walters, California State Assemblywoman Diane L. Harkey, and a representative from the California Restaurant Association.

    Many that wrote in support of the ordinance were skeptical of the proposed solution to ban plastic solely in favor of recycled paper bags, mainly because of the increased cost of the material, and many proposed implementing the 10 cent paper bag fee included in Laguna Beach’s draft ordinance.

    The most popular opposing opinion represented involved the economy—business-owners and residents worried that shoppers would take their business outside Dana Point city limits were a ban implemented.

    In an online poll by The Orange County Register, 52 voted for a ban on both Styrofoam products and plastic bags, while 42 percent opposed a ban of either item.

    Meetings in both cities will be Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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