The city of San Mateo will adopt a reusable bag ordinance beginning on Earth Day in an effort to reduce litter and dissuade the use of disposable bags, city officials announced Friday.
The San Mateo City Council will discuss the anticpated reusable bag ordinance and polystyrene ban with the Department of Public Works at the council's March 4 meeting.
According to estimates from Save the Bay, a leading environmental advocacy organization, more than a million plastic bags enter the Bay each year.
Up to 90 percent of floating debris is non-biodegradable plastic. Single use plastic bags entangle, suffocate, and poison at least 267 known animal species worldwide.
The negative environmental impact of polystyrene, more commonly referred to as “Styrofoam,” is also well documented. Styrene is listed as a hazardous air pollutant in an amendment of the Clean Air Act of 1990.
Save the Bay reports that “polystyrene foam is the second most abundant form of beach debris in California and poses a risk to human health, bay wildlife, and wetland habitat.”
The city of San Mateo will be joining San Mateo County, Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco, and Woodside in implementing a regional reusable bag ordinance and polystyrene ban on Earth Day, April 22; Millbrae implemented in September 2012.
On Earth Day, San Mateo will be giving away reusable bags to residents; details will be posted online.
In cities that adopt a reusable bag ordinance, retail shoppers will have the option of bringing their own reusable bags. Retailers will charge a minimum of $.10 for a requested recycled paper bag or reusable bag.
Exemptions apply for restaurants and nonprofit charitable organizations, as well as businesses that use produce and meat bags, garment cleaning bags and pharmaceutical bags.
For the polystyrene ban, restaurants and delis will be required to use more environmentally-friendly packaging. Many restaurants have already elected to use less harmful packaging for the safety of their customers.
As of Earth Day, those that have not will be allowed to use up existing stock of polystyrene before enforcement commences.
“From a City perspective, the impacts to our coastline, and our resources allocated to cleaning our shoreline, is immense,” Larry Patterson, Director of Public Works, said in a statement.
“We are proud to join our neighboring cities in implementing these important environmental ordinances and working with our business community on the transition to using more environmentally-friendly materials in their operations,” he said.