Monday, March 19 , 2018, 8:15 pm | Overcast 57º


Local News

In Wake of Carpinteria’s Ban on Plastic Grocery Bags, Many Customers Seem to Carry On

City's five large stores report few complaints as officials prepare to expand restrictions to smaller shops

Carpinteria’s single-use bag ban went into effect last week for large commercial stores and shoppers seem to be adjusting easily.

Vons assistant manager Charles Langhorne said most customers have had a positive reaction.

“I think it’s a good thing, and in some ways it’s easier now (for checkout employees),” he told Noozhawk.

Vons has reusable bags for sale — at a range of prices — at each checkout stand, and has posted signs to let people know about the ban when they walk into the store.

Some customers have been unhappy if they weren’t expecting the lack of single-use bags, but even the many tourists have taken it in stride, Langhorne said.

“We get a lot of tourists from Europe, and they’re used to it, since they have to provide their own bags anyway,” he noted.

Carpinteria’s ordinance bans all single-use bags from large establishments like Vons, but doesn’t permit them to offer paper bags for a price, like other municipalities have.

The City Council approved the ordinance in 2011, but the city was sued earlier this year by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, an industry-backed organization that’s been litigating such bans throughout California. The coalition argues that only the state can regulate food transportation, and that restaurants should not be included in the ban.

A settlement agreement was reached over the summer and the lawsuit was dropped after some changes to the ordinance. The local law now exempts restaurants or establishments that provide prepared food, like food trucks, and redefines “small commercial establishments.” These smaller stores — described as fewer than 3,000 square feet in size — have until April to phase out their plastic bags, but the ordinance permits them to offer recyclable, single-use paper bags.

Thirteen stores were reclassified as small stores with the amended ordinance, so only five stores are currently affected: Albertsons, CVS, Kim’s Market, Rite Aid and Vons.

City Manager Dave Durflinger said there has been a lot of outreach and education for stores and customers and there will be more before the smaller stores must implement the ban. No problems have been reported so far, he said.

Albertsons, at 1018 Casitas Pass Road, stopped providing single-use bags more than a year ago, so many local customers had already gotten in the habit of bringing their reusable bags while grocery shopping.

“Before the ban, I took my bags to Vons, to CVS — I took them everywhere,” said Carpinteria resident Mary Clark, who added that she’s seen other customers who aren’t as convinced that the ban is a good idea.

“It’s just natural resistance to a certain extent, but most people, when they get used to it, it’s a no-brainer,” she said. “You have to remember to take the bags with you, but after a while it’s rote.”

Clark, who has lived in Carpinteria for 35 years, says there has been a huge drop in the amount of plastic-bag litter she sees on the beach, not to mention in the shopping center parking lots.

“It makes you feel good,” she said. “I’m glad the city did this. Now I hope more people do this. It’s not a big deal!”

Santa Barbara County and the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara are pursuing a regional bag ban, and have all pitched in for an environmental impact report conducted by the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment, or BEACON, a state joint-powers agency of Central Coast cities and counties.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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