P.G. Merchants to City: Yes Plastic Bag Ban, No Paper Bag Fee

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The cities of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey have both banned single-use plastic bags at retail and grocery stores, and the city of Pacific Grove is poised to join them.

The big question before P.G. leaders doesn't appear to be whether to adopt a plastic-bag ban, but rather whether to combine it with a paper-bag fee. Most P.G. business owners, according to a new survey, advise the city not to.

Monterey did impose a paper-bag fee in its effort to push consumers toward bringing their own reusable bags. A 10-cent fee took effect in July 2012 and jumped up to 25 cents in January. Despite public pushback, the council on May 7 voted unanimously to keep the higher fee.

Carmel, however, took a different approach. Under political pressure from business owners, the City Council decided to keep paper bags free.

So P.G. turned to its business owners for a read on their preferences. According to preliminary survey results released late last month, based on feedback from 51 business owners or managers, 75 percent of respondents favor a plastic bag ban with no paper-bag fee. But 64 percent oppose a plastic bag ban with a paper bag fee.

Santa Cruz-based environmental nonprofit Save Our Shores says higher paper-bag fees are proven to effectively change shoppers' habits. When Monterey's paper-bag fee was 10 cents, SOS reports, 60 percent of shoppers brought their own bags or declined bags. When it rose to 25 cents, 82 percent of shoppers went paper-bag-free. Monterey's stated goal is to hit at least 80 percent.

In Carmel, by contrast, only 31 percent of shoppers brought their own bags or declined bags after the ban, according to SOS data.

Meanwhile, a proposed bill to ban single-use plastic bags statewide is back in the Legislature. Similar bills failed in 2010 and 2011.

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