Save The Bay Honors San Mateo County for Leadership in Banning Plastic Bags

May 6, 2013

Save The Bay, the largest regional organization working to protect and restore San Francisco Bay, is proud to give San Mateo County a Clean Bay Award for its leadership in drafting and implementing a county-wide model ordinance to ban plastic bags—one of the first of its kind in the nation. San Mateo County’s bag ordinance marks a turning point for bag bans in the Bay Area and underscores that a regional approach is the best way to rid our waterways of plastic.

The award will be presented by Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis at 9:00 a.m. on May 7 at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting. Media and the public are invited to attend.

The plastic trash that plagues our waterways is a regional issue that requires regional solutions.  The San Mateo County Department of Environmental Health led this effort by preparing an environmental impact report and developing a model ordinance.

This ordinance is ground-breaking in that, not only did the county take on the expense of preparing the EIR for the cities in San Mateo County, but it also invited municipalities in neighboring Santa Clara County to participate.

“Many cities had talked about doing something for years, but lacked the resources to tackle the lengthy and complex process of performing an Environmental Impact Report,” said Dean Peterson, San Mateo County’s director of environmental health.

All cities in San Mateo county and six cities in Santa Clara county participated in the EIR, with the goal of creating incentives for residents to switch to reusable bags when shopping. The ordinance was approved in October 2012 and implemented by 12 cities in San Mateo County, and one in Santa Clara County, on Earth Day 2013. Residents affected by the ordinance are adjusting well.

“San Mateo County residents are proving every day that it's possible to live with less plastic. We still occasionally forget to bring our reusable bags with us to the store, but we're adapting because we know our environment is better off for it,” said San Mateo County Supervisor, Carole Groom.

“We’re reaching a critical mass of bag bans in the Bay Area,” said Allison Chan, Clean Bay campaign manager for Save The Bay. “There’s almost a solid swathe of bans from Santa Cruz north to Marin, which will have a real impact on the health of the Bay.”

Impact of Bag Bans around the Bay
•    San Jose estimates that plastic bag trash in storm drains dropped by 89% after the city’s ban was enacted.
•    San Francisco’s 2007 ban targeted just over 100 stores (supermarkets and grocery stores), and reduced the number of plastic bags used by well over 100,000,000 per year.
•    San Francisco’s 2012 ordinance extended the plastic bag ban to all stores and required stores to charge 10 cents for the bags given out. According to Jack Macy from San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, “store compliance is high and bag reuse by customers is generally 75% or higher.” 
•    This latest San Mateo County ban means that there will soon be a nearly solid mass of plastic bag bans from Santa Cruz north into Marin.
•    Alameda County adopted its own county-wide ban in January 2013.

About Save The Bay
Save The Bay is the largest regional organization working to protect and restore San Francisco Bay. As the Bay’s leading champion since 1961, Save The Bay remains dedicated to making the Bay cleaner and healthier for people and wildlife. We protect our natural treasure from pollution and inappropriate shoreline development; restore habitat; and secure strong policies to re-establish 100,000 acres of wetlands that are essential for a healthy Bay. We engage more than 40,000 supporters, advocates and volunteers to protect the Bay, and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders by educating thousands of students annually.