The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday night that bans single use plastic and paper bags, but allows retailers to sell “green” paper bags for at least a dime. Due to the passage of Proposition 26 with its chilling impact on government’s ability to create and raise fees, Santa Monica abandoned its original ordinance, which would have put the paper-bag fee at a quarter with some of the revenue coming back to the city. Instead, leaders opted to model their bill after L.A. County's recently approved ban.
Fifty people came out to support the bag ban ordinance, about 25 students with Santa Monica High School Team Marine teacher Ben Kay and 25 attendees from environmental groups and the general public. As you might have expected, the students stole the show. Dressed in costumes ranging from bag man to straw student to lid lady to bottle boy, the students came out during finals week to advocate for the bag ban. In a proud moment for me, my son Zack, an ocean swimmer and three year co-president of the Heal the Bay Surfrider Club, testified in support of the ordinance. Zack reminded council members that he started testifying to them as a freshman. Now he’s a graduating senior.
Santa Monica is the undisputed greenest city in California (OK, Berkeley will dispute that). How did it take its leaders nearly four years to ban single use bags? If you guessed ongoing litigation threats from the Coalition to Save the Plastic Bag, then you’ve been paying attention.