APTOS — With each passing trip to the grocery store, Santa Cruz County residents seem to be getting more and more adept at adjusting to the county ordinance banning single use plastic bags in the unincorporated areas of the county that went into effect on March 20.
“I think it’s going great. People understand the need for the ban,” said Mark Stone, County Supervisor for District 5.
While most residents do see the need to rid the local landscape and landfills of plastic bags, there are some challenges involved for the stores, consumers and local jurisdictions trying to implement the bag ban in their city limits.
The effort to implement the ban in Santa Cruz County’s various cities stalled due to the threat of a lawsuit by the “Save The Plastic Bag Coalition.” In an effort to keep the ordinance moving forward the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors made restaurants exempt from the ban, which appeased the coalition and opponents of the ban decided not to sue.
According to Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores, each individual city had originally planned to follow the county’s lead on the environmental impact report and vote to enact the ordinance. But Supervisor Stone said that under the California Environmental Quality Act, each city is required to do its own EIR, often a costly project.
“The Capitola City Council voted not to do the EIR because they don’t have the money,” said Kasa.
The city of Santa Cruz will decide this week whether to draft an ordinance and Monterey has already successfully passed the single use plastic bag ban.
For now shoppers in Capitola are being asked to voluntarily bring their reusable bags to retail outlets and Kasa said she hopes to put an incentive program in place that will encourage folks to avoid using plastic bags.
“The answer is a statewide statute. It almost passed two years ago in the state legislature,” said Stone, but he believes the high cost of a blanket ordinance is a deterrent.
For people like Donna Bourne, a local artist from Watsonville, the choice is clear.
“I think it’s wrong the whole county didn’t ban plastic bags. I don’t think it should be city by city. It’s obvious plastic bags are bad for the environment. I would like to see the ban implemented in Watsonville as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile retail outlets and community organizations are trying to help shoppers adjust. Kasa said