SOLANA BEACH: Some shoppers souring on bag ban

by David Ogul

Source: North County Times

A ban on plastic shopping bags at the checkout line is being called everything from misguided to stupid just three weeks after it went into effect in Solana Beach.

"It's ridiculous, it's highly inconvenient and the reason they're doing it is highly suspect," said John Hensley, who said he would be doing all his shopping at a Del Mar Albertsons were it not for the fact that he lives just a couple of blocks from a grocery store on Lomas Santa Fe.

Solana Beach became the first San Diego County city to implement a ban on disposable plastic shopping bags on Aug. 9.

Backers said the move was a matter of common sense. Councilman Dave Roberts ---- at a news conference in front of Sprouts Farmers Market when the ban took hold ---- noted that 160 businesses in the city had been packing products in plastic bags at a rate of 6.5 million annually.

"This was harmful to our environment, harmful for our economy, harmful for our taxpayers and harmful for our marine life," he said at the time.

Numerous shoppers interviewed at several Solana Beach stores said then that the ban was a good idea. Only two or three questioned it.

But a visit to stores last week showed sentiment may have reversed.

Some chafed at having to pay 10 cents for every paper bag they would need if they didn't bring in a reusable one. Others wondered about whether using a canvas bag over and over would allow for an array of micro-organisms to spread.

"To be honest, I think it's stupid," said Rich Butz, who was unpacking groceries from several canvas bags at his car parked in the Sprouts lot. "Studies have shown you can contract salmonella and E. coli bacteria with the reusable bags.

"Sometimes politicians do things that feel good, but they don't think of the ramifications," Butz said, adding that he has "a couple of friends who won't shop in Solana Beach anymore."

Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said she has heard the complaints, but thinks they will wane.

"I think people will get used to this, just like they got used to the no-smoking on the beach thing," she said.

She noted the ban was enacted after being lobbied by residents. "Many people have come up and thanked us," Heebner said.

Indeed, there remain plenty of shoppers who say they support the ban.

"It's good," said Akram Mansouri. "Plastic bags are not recyclable. You see them flying all around."

Brandy Scholte agreed. Scholte is a San Diego resident who often shops in Solana Beach on her way to or from work in Carlsbad.

"You'll see plastic bags all over the place," she said. "On the beach, on the side of the road. I think the ban is a great idea."

Ronald Blumberg is a Solana Beach attorney who sits on the local Chamber of Commerce board. He said the issue has been a topic of discussion, and the chamber will discuss it soon.

"We have heard some grumblings that there are some people who are frustrated with the inconvenience," he said.

The City Council, which passed the ban unanimously in the spring, recently amended it after complaints from restaurants. Under the revisions, local eateries can continue to use plastic bags for people taking their food home.

San Francisco in 2007 was the first city in the state to ban plastic bags at checkout lines. Los Angeles, which adopted a similar ordinance in May, is the largest city in the nation with such a ban.

Meanwhile, an Aug. 16 report from a nonprofit opposed to government regulations concluded that plastic bag bans hurt local businesses.

The National Center for Policy Analysis said fourth-fifths of stores in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County covered by the ban reported a decrease in sales, with the average being 5.7 percent. Stores in areas not affected by the ban saw an increase in sales, the study said.

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