July 9, 2013

Palo Alto Seeks to Stop Pervasive Plastics

A plastic bag ordinance in Palo Alto has now been extended to include retail stores and food service establishments. The city had adopted the original ban in 2009 that applied only to grocery stores but has decided to take their environmentally-friendly actions a step further.

Retailers will need to charge a 10 cent fee for paper or reusable bags and the charge must be shown on receipts. Food service establishments, such as restaurants, delis and food trucks,  will also be included starting in November, although they won’t be required to charge customers for paper bags and some plastic bags will be available for liquid items such as soups.

According to the city’s website, plastic bag pollution was still very pervasive in spite of the 2009 ordinance which prompted the city council to adopt this expansion. Two creek cleanups in 2012, and careful data collection, revealed 350 plastic bags along the watershed.  The environmental impact report conducted estimates that the ordinance will eliminate the use of 20 million single-use plastic and paper bags—in just one year. 

Palo Alto has stepped up to the plate to reduce plastic pollution, which is believed to account for 60 percent of the trash found in local creeks. They have published helpful guides for businesses that are making the switch, as well as residents with questions. They are even offering car window decals to remind consumers to grab their bags before they leave their car.

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