English: South Coast of Santa Barbara County. Left to right: UC Santa Barbara, Goleta, Hope Ranch, city of Santa Barbara – and Platform Holly in foreground – Santa Ynez Mountains mid-backround & San Rafael Mountains beyond. Only the most distant mountains on the far right are in Ventura County. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Despite public health risks, The Ventura County Board of Supervisors are considering a ban on plastic carryout bags throughout the County.
The Ventura County Star recently reported The Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, took the first step toward that goal by considering a model draft ordinance that would ban single-use plastic carryout bags from retail stores in the region.
While supervisors did not make a decision Tuesday to approve the ban, they did vote 4-1, with Supervisor Peter Foy dissenting, to move forward with an environmental review of the ordinance that could also be used as a model for other coastal counties and cities.
Supervisors also on Tuesday voted 4-1, with Foy dissenting, to endorse spending $8,000 toward a jointly funded regional environmental impact report to review the plastic bag ban.
The $8,000 will come from the county Watershed Protection District’s Storm Water Total Maximum Daily Loads Program, which monitors the amount of trash that ends up in the coastal waters.
The draft ordinance prohibits plastic carryout bags at any store that sells food or pharmacies. The ban does not include produce bags or product bags supplied by a store. Customers would be charged 10 cents for each recyclable paper carryout bag.
Restaurants, fast-food establishments and nonfood retail stores would be exempt.
The ordinance was referred to the supervisors by the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON), a multi-jurisdictional joint-powers agency composed of both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, as well as the coastal cities of Goleta, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme.
BEACON is an agency responsible for protecting beaches and the coast, and the preservation, protection and enhancement of clean ocean waters.
Supervisors Steve Bennett and John Zaragoza brought the plastic bag ban to the rest of the supervisors at the request of the BEACON board, whose members believe the improper disposal of non-compostable plastic bags is a major component of pollution and is a detriment to wildlife and the environment.
BEACON staff will be overseeing the California Environment Quality Act review process.
A statewide initiative to ban single-use plastic bags failed in 2010, though the Supreme Court last year did uphold the right of cities to ban plastic bags.
Los Angeles County approved a similar environmental impact report and ordinance banning single-use plastic bags, and Los Angeles in May became the largest city in the nation to ban plastic bags.
Carpinteria also approved a ban in March, and Ojai in April became the first city in Ventura County to ban single-use plastic bags.
Bennett said coastal communities have a great interest in banning plastic bags because they get into the watershed and end up in the ocean and river bottoms.
Foy questioned whether the ordinance could waive costs for shoppers that will have to pay extra if they must buy bags to carry out a lot of groceries.
Ventura Councilman Brian Brennan, who also is the director of BEACON, said the supervisors would have the power to add language to address cost issues when the ordinance comes back for approval at a later time.
Reusable grocery bags are a proven breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health, according to a joint food-safety research report issued June 2012 by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California.
“Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled,” said Charles Gerba, a UA professor of soil, water and environmental science and co-author of the study. “Furthermore, consumers are alarmingly unaware of these risks and the critical need to sanitize their bags on a weekly basis.”
Bacteria levels found in reusable bags were significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death. They are a particular danger for young children, who are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses, Gerba said.
Statistics show that paper bags are harder on the environment than plastic bags.
- Each year, Americans use about 10 billion paper bags, which results in the cutting down of 14 million trees.
- Four times the amount of energy is used to manufacture paper vs. plastic bags.
- 98 percent more energy is used to recycle paper vs. plastic bags.
- 70 percent more air pollutants than plastic bags
- 50 percent more water pollutants than plastic bags
Brown paper bags are recyclable, but only 10 to 15 percent are being returned to recycling plants. In addition, the manufacturing of new brown paper bags utilizes very little recyclable material.