Los Gatos Plastic Bag Ban Under Way

Council authorizes staff to draft ordinance regulating single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene.


The days of happy Los Gatos shoppers walking into their favorite establishments to purchase goods later deposited into single-use plastic carryout bags look numbered.

The Los Gatos Town Council held a study session this week to authorize staff to draft an ordinance regulating single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene.

The move is in response to the Council's July 2012 adoption of a sustainability plan that calls for measures to reduce solid waste, a staff report stated.

"The use of single-use carry out bags contributes to negative environmental impacts on air quality, biological resources, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality, and contributes to the increase of litter in storm drains, creeks, the bay and the ocean," the report added.

In October 2009, the Santa Clara County Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission  recommended that all jurisdictions in the county establish a ban on plastic single-use, carry-out bags and a mandatory charge on paper carry-out bags at retail stores, excluding restaurants and fast -food establishments, the report said.

In June 2011, the Santa Clara County Cities Association supported this recommendation.

According to town staff, environmental consultants have estimated that 531 plastic bags are used per person annually in Los Gatos. Adopting a single-use bag ordinance would potentially eliminate nearly 16 million plastic bags annually, which would assist in meeting the town' s goal for solid waste reduction.

In September 2011, San Mateo County conducted an environmental impact report on potential impacts of regulating the use of plastic bags and how to develop an ordinance for regional adoption.

Los Gatos and 23 cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, that were also considering a single-use ban ordinance, were invited to participate in the process. Municipalities in Santa Clara County included Los Gatos, Milpitas, Cupertino, Los Altos, Campbell and Mountain View.

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors finalized that EIR in October 2012.

Other cities have also adopted or are considering adopting an ordinance, including Palo Alto, San Jose, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Cupertino and Campbell.

State legislation regarding single-use carryout bags includes Senate Bill 405, authored by Senator Alex Padilla and Assembly Bill 158, authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine. Each measure seeks to prohibit stores that have a specified amount of dollar sales or retail floor space from providing a single-use carryout bag to a customer.

The Los Gatos ordinance would apply to any commercial establishment that sells perishable or nonperishable goods, including, but not limited to, clothing, food, and personal items, directly to the customer; and is located with or doing business within the geographical limits of the town, according to staff.

The ordinance would have the following components:

  • Prohibit the free distribution of single-use carryout paper and plastic bags;
  • Require retail establishments to charge customers for recycled paper bags and reusable bags at the point of sale.
  • The minimum charge would be 10 cents per paper bag until Dec. 31, 2014;
  • Increase the minimum charge to 25 cents per paper bag on or after Jan. 1,
  • Exempt customers participating in supplemental food programs from having to pay for carryout bags;
  • Allow retailers to provide protective plastic bags, without handles, intended to segregate produce, raw meat and prescription drugs, for their customers at no cost; and
  • Take effect on Jan. 1, 2014

The most common issues raised in opposition of the proposed ordinance were concerns related to the 10-cent and 25-cent cost of reusable bags posing an undue economic impact for consumers and retailers; the perceived negative health impacts of reusable bags (becoming dirty and harboring bacteria such as E. Coli); and the opinion that many people reuse plastic bags to line their trash bins or use them to pick up dog waste, the report noted.

There is also a plastic bag industry group called Save the Plastic Bag Coalition whose membership includes companies and individuals engaged in the manufacture and distribution of plastic carryout bags and polyethylene reusable bags who oppose reusable bag ordinances.

Ginger Rowe, owner of Time Out Clothing, wrote a letter to the Council expressing her concern about having to pay a sales tax on the surcharge for reusable bags.

The State Board of Equalization issued a special notice stating that due to the charge being imposed by the local jurisdiction upon the customer, not the retailer; the charge is not included in the retailer's gross receipts and would not be subject to a sales or use tax.

"If we must charge for bags, how do I account for sales tax and reporting for that? Is that a separate line item to the State Board of Equalization?" Rowe asked. "I have three different size bags, and to say .10 for one and .25 for the other ... I 'm thinking all the customers would then want a big bag, which is very [expensive]."

Rowe is also worried about reusable bags contributing to shoplifting. "When we see people carrying around bags from other towns, we are very suspicious of them .... It makes it very easy to shoplift when carrying large bags, and we have definitely had more than our share of shoplifters in town lately," she said. 


  • Supervisor Wasserman Opposes Plastic Bag Ban
  • Plastic-Bag Ban EIR Being Drafted
  • Letter: Don't Ban Plastic Bags
  • Is Los Gatos Closer to Plastic Bag Ban?
  • Poll Results: Should Los Gatos Ban Plastic Bags?
AR May 09, 2013 at 08:51 PM
i approve. i cannot wait until these pointless bags disappear entirely. cue the predictable line of whiners who will claim this will somehow disrupt the progress of western civilization...
SunTzu May 09, 2013 at 09:22 PM
So the impact report examines the problems with plastic bags, but the conclusion is to ban them and then charge customers for paper bags that are not encompassed or considered in the report (and are already made of recycled material and can be further recycled)? Talk about a cognitive disconnect, but that is pretty much par for the course with so-called environmentalists who are okay with piling on more red tape for small businesses and unnecessary taxes on consumers so they can feel good about "doing something" for the environment.
Jeremy Barousse May 09, 2013 at 11:46 PM
These city plastic bag bans have proven to be effective, and will limit bags from floating into our streams, lakes, and most importantly the San Francisco Bay. Just like San Jose, who enacted the bag ban Jan 1, 2012, people's behaviors will change, and will remember to bring cloth bags around with them when they do their shopping.
Lynne Bryant, CS May 10, 2013 at 03:00 AM
I was wondering if/when this ban was coming to LG... now I'm really going to have to remember my cloth bags. I don't want to pay any extra for bags!
AR May 10, 2013 at 04:05 AM
the need to be rid of these bags has little to do with the efficacy of using paper bags as an alternative. these bags are harmful because of their chemical and material composition, and their tendency to become entangled. the notion that this will introduce a crushing bureacracy for small business is ludicrous.
Maria Ristow May 10, 2013 at 04:50 AM
Using cloth bags will become second nature for those new to this. I carry a tote with me when doing walking errands, and I keep about 10-12 cloth bags in my car. I haven't taken a bag (plastic or paper) from a local grocery store in about 5 years. And if I buy more than will fit into the bags I carried in to the grocer? I just bring the items, unbagged, back to my car and bag there. SO simple....
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz May 10, 2013 at 05:38 AM
I have my own bags always in my car. Haven't used those bags in years!
Esmée St James May 10, 2013 at 07:09 AM
Finally, this is great news, thank you! I like the incentive CVS has with their cloth bag tag, it gets scanned whenever I use the bag and I collect great discounts. Would be a great model for grocery stores. I'd love it if there were also a compostable waste collection available in Los Gatos. Would greatly reduce garbage.
Joseph Sze May 10, 2013 at 11:18 AM
It seems like ban backers base their success mostly on changing behavior than anything. Typical liberal mentality. Though one big change in people's behavior is that they are shopping in Los Gatos and Campbell much more after 2012 instead of similar stores in San Jose. Its about the principle not the cost. They don't want to have to pay for paper or buy reusable bags only to have to buy plastic bags for many necessary uses at home. Also when is it the government's job to stop a retailer from selling a free item or to set minimum prices in a private shop other than in a fascist regime? Lets face it, bag bans are all feel good environmentalism which stands nothing to science and is proven to actually be harmful to the environment as well as human health. Studies have shown product bans are never truely effective in solving main issues. The most ridiculous thing is that it is not even a real product ban if it is or else plastic bags would not be sold in the city. The ban does not prevent plastic bags from been sold off store shelves it just cannot be sold or distributed within a certain distance of a cash registor. Pretty abusive and stupid legislation A real solution on the other hand is to go after those who manufacture the plastic items and push legislation just as with CFCs, R12, DDT, leaded gas, lead paint to phase them out with good smart alternatives that those not interrupt people's lives.
Joseph Sze May 10, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Last year Los Gatos said they would let the state take the lead. They knew the negative consequences suffered by San Jose which actually resulted in their gain by displacing business from San jose to their city increasing their economic output and tax revenues. I wonder what has lead them to change their minds year? They know there are state bills pending on this. Are they afraid the state would never pass its bag ban bills so they need to take action? I guess the bag monster activists just won't leave them alone. Theoretically The bag ban is not really a ban at all: A real ban would mean plastic bags would not be sold in the aisles or anywhere but this is not the case with these fad legislations which just prohibits them from being sold near a cash register. Just an abuse of power to control a particular use of an item and to mandate a set pricing on an item to be sold or pretty much a behavior change scheme. I find this fad is just ridiculous. Its purely an overreaction to an unsubstantiated issue according to many scientific research and litter audits. Even if it proven to be a serious issue shouldn't the production, manufacturing and sale of the product be targeted and controlled instead just as done with R12, leaded paint, leaded gas, DDT, and CFCs? Something that would be regulated in a mass scale and patchwork of city to city bans. The manufactures would then make changes that the end user can barely notice yet make great difference for the environment.
SunTzu May 10, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Good points. I still haven't heard that any explanation from the green crusaders how any interest in the health, safety or welfare of the city would be furthered by charging for paper bags which currently free. As you state, it's just a behavior changing scheme and there is no legitimate explanation of what the money charged for the paper bags would be used for.
Joseph Sze May 11, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Sorry one mistake I meant not city to city patchwork of bans with different regulations. I learned that the fee is actually a deal with the Save the Plastic bag coalition which represents local plastic bag industries who threaten to sue cities for favoring paper bag manufactures. Though the fee itself is controversial as its a disguised illegal tax through a loophole also its essentially mandatory price fixing which otherwise violate anti trust laws and is unconstitutional. Also what gives a municipal government right to set prices or determine what can be given out for free in a private store. Does it mean a city have the power to forbid buy one get one free sales? Or Ban complementary napkins, condiments, forks, spoons, or toilet paper? The fee policy leaves a lot of unanswered yet serious questions to be answered. It seems like these fascist communist style policies are spreading fast in what is otherwise known as the free world. Therefore we the people should immediately fight against this.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something