Encinitas council approves plastic bag ban


With a state deadline nearing, the Encinitas City Council voted 3-2 at its Aug. 20 meeting to adopt a ban on single-use plastic bags.

The legislation will take effect early next spring for grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores. By next fall, the ban will expand to other retailers and farmers markets.

“Each year we learn more about the negative impacts of plastics,” said Councilwoman Teresa Barth, who voted in favor of the ban.

She added moments later: “This is not at all superficial and sends a clear message that we in Encinitas really do care about our environment.”

It’s estimated around 300 establishments will fall under the ordinance. However, food vendors are a notable exemption. And bags for meat and produce at grocery stores are still OK under the new rules.

Like Solana Beach’s ban, Encinitas establishments will be required to charge 10 cents per paper bag. The collected fee will stay with the retailer.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar opposed the motion, stating the council wrongly ignored its own standards by not pursuing an environmental impact report (EIR) for the ban.

“I do remain unsupportive of the council action that led us here this evening,” Gaspar said.

A consultant’s study presented to council last June found to fill the void left by plastic bags, manufacturing additional reusable bags would generate a significant amount of greenhouse gases, resulting in the need for a costly EIR.

A council majority at that time said the report’s flawed methodology grossly overestimated greenhouse gases. They also stated the ban is helping the environment, and so an EIR isn’t necessary to move forward.

Councilman Mark Muir, who also voted against the item, said he’s optimistic the state’s Senate Bill 270 will pass, making a local ban unnecessary for now.

SB 270, which also mandates a 10-cent fee for paper bags, is currently in the state Assembly. Should it clear the Assembly, the Senate would have to approve the bill before Aug. 31.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said Sen. Alex Padilla, who’s sponsoring SB 270, has encouraged local bans to help make the case for statewide legislation.

“So I see absolutely no conflict between us moving forward with this ordinance and supporting the state ban,” Shaffer said.

Compared to the state ban, Encinitas’ ordinance would cover more businesses.

SB 270 prohibits cities from adopting local bans after Sept. 1, leading the council to speed up consideration.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz said he received correspondence from those who believe the ban is promoting the “nanny state.”

“I recognize that one of the problems we have is some people aren’t responsible about the way they dispose of their garbage,” Kranz said. “It’s unfortunate that in some cases we just have to take action to deal with these sorts of issues.”

Resident Russell Levan called the vote “historic.” He noted residents and groups like the Surfrider Foundation began gathering signatures for a ban eight years ago.

“I am here eight years later to try and see this through,” Levan said.

Like other speakers, Levan stressed plastic bags hurt the environment and marine life.

The staff report on the item states: “In California, 20 billion plastic bags are used annually…with 81 percent of them ending up in landfills, which in turn generates 147,038 tons of waste and requires in excess of $51 million annually in disposal costs.”

Businesses that don’t comply would be issued warnings, followed by fines beginning at $100 and then ultimately up to $500.