Local Farmers' Markets to Implement Plastic Bags and Packaging Ban

Photo: The Berkeley Farmers' Markets will enact a ban on the use of plastic bags and most plastic packaging starting April 25.
Anna Hiatt/File
The Berkeley Farmers' Markets will enact a ban on the use of plastic bags and most plastic packaging starting April 25.

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The farmers' markets in Berkeley will be the first ones in the nation to eliminate plastic bags and almost all plastic packaging.

As part of its "Zero Waste" campaign encouraging consumers to compost, recycle and reduce waste, the Berkeley Farmers' Markets has decided on a plastic materials ban that will go into effect on April 25, the day of Berkeley's Earth Day Celebration.

"I think it's long overdue," said Tami Loeffler, operations manager for the Berkeley Farmers' Markets. "It's time people pay more attention to waste they create."

Farmers and vendors have been unofficially phasing out plastic bags and packaging since March 7, Loeffler said. Only vendors with items such as meat and fish, which do not have safe packaging alternatives, can be exempt from the ban.

According to a Berkeley Farmers' Markets press release, farmers' markets in Monterey and Irvine have already eliminated plastic bags, but not packaging. The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is also planning to ban plastic bags.

In 2007, San Francisco was the first city in the nation to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies, after which Berkeley began considering a similar proposal.

Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said the city does not have a ban on plastic bags and that the City Council has yet to consider such a proposal.

"The city hasn't banned (plastic bags). We're waiting to see what happens at the state level and Oakland," he said.

Cities including Oakland, Palo Alto and Santa Monica are also looking into similar legislation, according to Mark Westlund, spokesperson for San Francisco's environment department.

Loeffler said the reaction from vendors and customers has been mostly positive.

"We've had lots of support from customers, farmers, vendors and the city," she said. "I think everybody is on board and excited, I think there's no downside to it."

Vendors at the Berkeley Farmers' Markets are encouraged to charge customers 25 cents for a compostable bag to encourage reusing bags and reducing waste.

Loeffler said she hopes the ban will spark a similar trend elsewhere.

"I think it's a good thing. Hopefully it's a beginning to this happening all over the country," she said.


Carol Yur covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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