Ban Should Be in the Bag

CITY AFFAIRS: Although the state measure to ban plastic bags failed, Berkeley should pursue a similar ordinance for the city.

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An ordinance, if passed in Berkeley, could shorten an oft-heard option for bags in retail stores to one choice only: paper.

City officials are continuing a debate to ban plastic bags after a similar bill was voted down at the state level near the end of August.

While those who opposed AB 1998 said that the ban went too far in regulating personal choice, this ordinance should be passed in Berkeley - plastic bags create a huge strain on the environment and it's a cost that nobody has internalized. Among other statistics, the California Integrated Waste Management Board estimates that Bay Area residents discard over 100 plastic bags per second, the vast majority of which do not biodegrade.

However, another part of the proposal to charge 25 cents per paper bag is unreasonable and could have an adverse effect on lower income shoppers. A five to 10 cent fee would be better in encouraging people to bring reusable bags without substantially draining food budgets. Positive reinforcement - some grocery stores already give a discount to shoppers who have their own bags - would also be more effective in emphasizing a priority away from single-use paper.

Taking this fee adjustment into account, Berkeley should also pursue this ordinance with its neighbor's mistake in mind. After passing a ban on plastic bags in 2007, the city of Oakland was sued for not aptly examining the environmental impacts of their law. The ban was reversed by a court ruling in 2008.

Past history aside, banning plastic bags in Berkeley has been debated for years. The Daily Californian endorsed such a measure in 2005, and we continue to support it today.

It's about time the city lived up to it's progressive hype - although it was too early to pass a statewide ban, it certainly should not be problem to prohibit plastic here.

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