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Plastic bag ban to take effect next week in Encinitas

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( / Jared Whitlock)

For those who haven’t already, now is a good time to stock up on reusable bags.

Encinitas’ plastic bag ban takes effect April 10 at grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores and convenience stores. A second phase covering department stores, hardware shops, farmers markets and all other establishments selling merchandise kicks in Oct. 10.

To get the word out about the first phase, the city partnered with the environmental nonprofit I Love a Clean San Diego. The nonprofit coordinated with grocery stores and held four reusable-bag giveaways at store locations over the past month. More giveaways are planned, though the dates and locations of those haven’t been set.

“At least 200 to 300 bags have been given away at each of these events,” said Erik Steenblock, the city’s environmental programs manager. “That’s been a way to let people know and to provide them with a reusable bag.”

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In terms of outreach to businesses, the city mailed a letter to all stores affected by the first phase. And the city posted an FAQ sheet, along with contact information for those with additional questions, at www.encinitasenvironment.org.

“We’ve been proactively approached by a lot of retailers saying they want to know when this takes effect and that they want to be ready — that’s been over the past couple months,” Steenblock said.

The website (www.encinitasenvironment.org) also has a poster that businesses can download and post to notify customers about the upcoming ban. And stores like Vons on Santa Fe Drive have put up their own signs, said Marlena Medford, the city’s communications officer.

In an effort to encourage the use of reusable bags, Encinitas establishments under the ordinance must charge 10 cents per paper bag. The collected fee will stay with the retailer.

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Once the second phase hits, it’s expected that Encinitas’ ban will affect about 300 local establishments, with restaurants being a notable exception.

And produce as well as pharmacy bags are still OK, according to the ordinance.

Steenblock said penalties for failing to comply with the new ordinance won’t be on the table for a while.

“We’ll be willing to work with the businesses and figure out a plan and help them get up to speed,” he said. “It’s certainly not going to be a strong hammer coming down on the retailers.”

He added that a “drop dead date” hasn’t been set for when enforcement will begin. The city wants to first see how implementation goes.

Once the grace period passes, businesses caught still offering plastic bags will receive a $100 fine for a first violation, with $200 for a second offense. Third and subsequent violations will draw a $500 citation, according to the ordinance.

The Encinitas City Council adopted the ban last August, when it was unclear whether a state ban would win approval. A month later, Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s legislation, SB 270, into law.

SB 270 was scheduled to start this summer, but it’s on hold because opponents of the ban collected enough signatures to put the matter to a statewide vote November 2016.

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Yet according to SB 270, local bag ban ordinances will stand if they were approved before Sept. 1.

The Encinitas council cited the negative impact of plastics on the environment when it passed the ban. Encinitas is the second city in San Diego County to approve such a ban, following in the footsteps of Solana Beach.

From talking with Solana Beach city staff, Steenblock said the city learned, among other things, that reusable bag giveaways should take place inside the stores.

“They weren’t getting a good reception when they were outside the store — people would dodge them,” he said. “We learned, ‘Be in the store — be associated with the store.’”

In order to remember reusable bags, the city’s website suggests residents should set their car keys on their bags, keep bags in multiple places and put bags back into their car trunks immediately after unloading purchases, so they’ll be there for the next trip to the store.


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