San Jose passes plastic bag ban

San Jose has become the nation's largest city to ban the use of single-use carryout plastic bags in retail stores.

The City Council voted 10-1 last week to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the free distribution of single-use carryout plastic and paper bags for all retail businesses in the city, effective Jan. 1, 2012. Exceptions have been granted for restaurants and nonprofit charitable re-use organizations. Paper bags will be available at affected retail stores after that date, but they must contain 40 percent recycled content and shoppers must be charged 10 cents per bag. That fee will increase to 25 cents by 2014.

John Stufflebean, San Jose’s environmental services director, said in a memo to council members that the ordinance would help the city reduce the number of bags clogging storm drains and creeks, improve water quality and reduce overall litter in the city.

In a statement released after the vote, the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade organization, said the ordinance will increase the cost of grocery shopping for San Jose residents and hurt the city’s small businesses.

"It's unfortunate that the City Council would take this approach," Tim Shestek, senior director of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement. "Plastic bags are fully recyclable and instead of entertaining recycling partnerships and programs, the City Council chose a policy that punishes consumers by raising grocery costs unnecessarily."

Read more in the Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal.

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