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Campbell Discusses the Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags

The only community meeting scheduled for Campbell in the plastic bag EIR drafting process took place May 2 in the Campbell Library.

It’s been the topic of many contentious discussions.

The question of whether or not to ban single-use plastic bags came to a head with the enacting of bag bans in the nearby cities of Sunnyvale and San Jose.

“We are changing behavior and that’s very difficult to do,” said Dean Peterson, County of San Mateo director of environmental health services division at the Campbell meeting. “Convenience is king.”

Peterson, along with Matthew Maddox, a Rincon Consultants environmental planner came out on May 2 to the where residents could ask questions and weigh in on the Environmental Impact Report and what should be included.

“This is the best turnout we’ve had in the scoping process,” Peterson said to the crowd of more than a dozen community leaders, business owners and residents.

Campbell is one of 24 cities within Santa Clara and San Mateo counties that will be part of the drafting of an Environmental Impact Report regarding the consumer commodity.

Rincon Consultants, the group that is drafting the EIR for the 24 cities and also drafted the EIR for the city of Sunnyvale, has been holding “scoping” meetings since April 18.

Cities and counties around the Bay Area considering plastic and paper bag bans, have had to weigh the expense of conducting an EIR, since pro-plastic groups sued San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose under the California Environmental Quality Act for failing to do so before passing a plastic bag ban.

The joint effort allows small communities like Campbell to have an EIR for free. The estimated cost of doing an EIR for this particular issue is $25,000.

Having an EIR and subsequent ordinance has other benefits to the city, Maddox said.

“Every city and jurisdiction is regulated for how much trash goes into storm drains,” he said. “By 2014, each city must reduce their trash by 40 percent. By enacting a regional ordinance like this, they (San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board) will add 12 percent (in credit) towards this.”

Questions asked at the meeting included whether an ordinance would apply to just “big box” businesses or also small business, all plastic bags or just the non-biodegradable ones and whether the environmental impact report would extend beyond local, particularly to the San Francisco Bay.

Maddox said the ordinance would apply to all "points-of-sale," would apply to all single-use plastic bags and would extend to impacts on the Bay.

“The main focus of the EIR is the environmental impact,” he said. “Quality of life, economic impact and social impact are all things discussed at the local level."

The EIR will look at the manufacturing, transportation and degradation of a single-use bag compared to a reusable bag, Maddox said.

One Campbell resident, Pam Ledesma said that one of the reasons people won’t support this type of ordinance is because they don’t think there’s a problem.

“The EIR is really a tool to help people understand the process and I’m hoping there’s a discussion there that normal people can understand that’s backed up with good research," Ledesma said. "I think that’s going to be important.”

But before making too many suggestions or getting off topic, Campbell Mayor Mike Kotowski made a suggestion to the residents present at the meeting.

“We shouldn’t run ahead of the EIR because it will protect our city and our ordinance,” Kotowski said.

PROJECTED EIR SCHEDULE

  • May 6: Last day to submit comments.
  • June: Release of draft EIR for public comment.
  • July: The closure of draft EIR public comment period.
  • September/October: County hearings on ordinance and final EIR (only applies to unincorporated San Mateo County).

The finished EIR will be used as a "model" for local governments to then customize to their communities, Peterson said.

“We expect the local governments to follow with their ordinances sometime after this but realistically, the drafting of local ordinances will probably run through 2013,” he said.

DrRossH May 06, 2012 at 03:54 AM
The bag manufacturers always bring out the argument, a plastic bag uses less water and less energy to make than a plastic bag. They are trying to divert the discussion away from the disposal issues of their plastic bags, as they have no argument there as their bags are not biodegradable, they do not go away, they last 100's of years polluting and clogging things. . The plastic bag waste is a bad problem and manufacturers have to be responsible for part of the problem. They just want to produce lots of bags for a profit and have no care for the environment. Banning the bag does cause a grumbling change of habit in some people for a few months, but they get over it and move on to some other topic meanwhile your environment is better off. You'll see new businesses start up selling fashionable reusable bags. Have confidence you are doing the right thing and ban those bags.

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