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Bring a recyclable bag or two when going to the store

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In August 2014, Lincoln City Council unanimously passed a resolution allowing retailers to choose whether to offer single-use bags to consumers.

But that ordinance might not hold up today at local stores.

Lincoln City Council made the August 2014 resolution in anticipation of California’s Senate Bill 270 passing a month later, which was aimed to phase out single-use carry-out bags throughout the state.

In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 67, which banned grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores and pharmacies from providing free single-use carry-out bags. Stores now are required to charge 10 cents per carry-out bag used, with a few exceptions, i.e. unless customers pay with EBT cards or WIC cards/vouchers.

  But Lincoln’s resolution in 2014 allowed local stores the option of providing free single-use bags.

Lincoln was the only city in California to preempt Prop. 67 by passing the August 2014 ordinance that allowed stores to decide whether to offer the bags, according to Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader.

Now the Lincoln ordinance is being questioned and some local stores this month started charging customers 10 cents for bags.

That’s when, according to city of Lincoln representatives, the state’s Department of Justice requested that information on the Ban on Single-Use Carryout Bags (SB 270 /Proposition 67) be given to local businesses.

Nader said Wednesday that a resident complained to the state’s Department of Justice and that was the basis for the Department of Justice telling Lincoln officials to update businesses about the ban.

According to Nader, Lincoln’s ordinance is still in effect.

“I like that we gave our businesses the option to charge for bags or not in August 2014. Major stores are now charging 10 cents. I like that the smaller businesses can choose to follow the ban or not,” Nader said. “We haven’t rescinded our ordinance. The state might decide if they get more complaints to force us to rescind the ordinance. But the state’s position on our ordinance is on hold.”

Stores, though, have a different opinion. The Raley’s store off of Lincoln Boulevard has fliers posted with this message, “The Attorney General of California is requiring grocers in the City of Lincoln to adhere to Prop. 67, banning single-use plastic bags and mandating that retailers charge for bags. This store must now charge 10 cents for each paper or reusable plastic bag.”

For now, the ban might be inconvenient for some shoppers used to the free bags but they can quickly get into the habit of bringing bags from home or just buying a bag for 10 cents.

The less dependence we have on plastic bags, the better for our environment.

Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit environmental research and advocacy organization that supported the single-use carryout bag ban, has several reasons that make it easier to give up the bags.

For example, the average time of use of a disposable bag is 12 minutes but they persist as pollution in the environment for decades. 

Californians Against Waste also reports that:

*  Plastic bags don’t biodegrade but instead break into small pieces that can attract surrounding toxins to contaminate the environment and food chain.

*  According to The Ocean Conservancy, single-use plastic bags are one of the most commonly found items at beach clean ups. The Ocean Conservancy recently deemed plastic bags as the Number 2 deadliest threat to sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals.

*  San Jose found a 76-percent reduction in creek and river litter, a 59-percent drop in park and roadside plastic bag litter, and a 69-percent reduction in plastic bag litter in storm drains.

Think of it this way: the free bags have gone the way of records, cassettes and rotary phones. And we seem to be doing OK without those items.

Relying on a store’s free bags is an easy habit to break. Reducing the number of plastic bags used results in huge benefits for the environment. It’s an easy price to pay for a healthier Earth.