Restaurants Targeted for Volunteer Ban on Plastic Bags

Mar 15, 2012


Beginning March 20th if you buy something in Santa Cruz County, you’ll need to bring your own bag, or be ready to pay 10-cents for a paper bag.  The ban on single use plastic bags affects all businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county except restaurants. But there is an effort underway to include them in the ban. 

Deli-Licious is a neighborhood restaurant in the Live Oak community just east of Santa Cruz. You can get breakfast or lunch, but what you cannot get is a plastic bag to carry your food home. The restaurant’s owner, Karla Oliveira, says she wants to help her community and one way to do that is to have her customers carry their own bag. Deli-Licious is one of a handful of eateries that has voluntarily agreed to stop using disposable plastic bags

Restaurants aren’t part of Santa Cruz County’s new ban on plastic bags.  A group associated with plastic bag manufacturers sued the county but agreed to drop the lawsuit if restaurants were excluded.  That prompted the environmental group Save Our Shores to begin an effort to get restaurants to voluntarily stop using plastic carry out bags.

There are about 150 restaurants in the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County.  Save Our Shores is focusing on 40 that they call leaders hoping eventually to motivate all restaurants to join the ban.

Lauren Dockendorf is program coordinator for Save Our Shores. She emphasizes that while restaurants are not the number one source of plastic bag pollution, they are significant and the impact on area beaches is substantial.  “We've found over 34 thousand plastic bags within the last 5 years, since 2007,” she says.

More than two dozen other California cities and counties have similar bans. Mark Stone is the Santa Cruz County supervisor behind the ban. He says that if enough restaurants voluntarily give up plastic bags, Santa Cruz County could become a model for the state. He argues that “there will be a statewide solution at some point.  If we are able to successfully implement this and show that it works then the state will need to consider restaurants, consider all point-of-sale-retail, as they do their legislation.”

Supervisor Stone says that while a statewide is not imminent, just having local laws on the books is important to change the way people think.  “The next generation probably wouldn't need this ordinance because it will be part of our internal values of how we want to address the environment. My kids, their kids, I'm hoping will be able to go back to a time when we didn't have the proliferation of plastic bags.”

Save Our Shores Lauren Dockendorf imagines a day when there are no plastic bags.  She says “we want to see less of these city tumbleweeds coming around. We want to see less of these exotic flowers in our trees that are plastic bags. And just have a healthier community.”

Santa Cruz County’s ban on single use plastic bags begins March 20th.