Ivan Natividad

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March 24, 2014
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Nevada City surveys local businesses on plastic bag ordinance

Nevada City has created a survey to collect feedback from local businesses in reference to the proposed citywide plastic bag ordinance, which city officials hope will go into effect before September of this year.

“To date, we’ve been looking at moving forward with something like the ordinance that Truckee put in place,” Nevada City Mayor Sally Harris told The Union. “But depending on the feedback we get we may need to modify that for our businesses.”

The survey, promoted by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, asks business owners and consumers to anonymously give their opinions about a potential ban on the use of lightweight, handled carry-out bags. The survey also asks business owners questions around the proposed 10-cent fee they would have to charge their customers if the ordinance were to go into effect.

“This survey is to prompt retailers to communicate to us about this,” Harris said. “I’m hopeful the survey will elicit some comment on how we want to move forward with this ordinance.”

If passed, the proposed ordinance would allow businesses to retain the 10-cent bag fee to help cover the costs of switching their business from using plastic to paper.

Nevada City Council member Robert Bergman says the survey is not just a tool for the city to get perspective from the business community, but to also educate the public.

“We’re not arrogantly moving on and saying this is what you’re going to do,” Bergman said. “You have a chance to say why the ordinance doesn’t make sense to you.” “It’s important to educate people on the fact that it’s better not to just keep consuming …,” Bergman added. “The plastic is a particular issue because it has collateral damage, in getting in the waste stream, or clogging up the drains.”

Teresa Mann, owner of J.J. Jackson’s, a home accents and travel gear store on Commercial Street, said store owners should take the environment into account when running their business.

“We have never used plastic bags, and people really appreciate it,” Mann said. “I feel like it’s a responsibility. Carry your own reusable bag. In our case, the ones we sell are washable, so you can wash it.”

Port of Subs restaurant owner, Mike Argento, said they regularly use plastic bags for sandwiches, but that his business franchise is starting to shift policy.

“We have paper on the way, so we’ll be ahead of the ordinance. But it’s going to be more expensive for us,” Argento said. “I think for the environment, and the landfills and such, it’s going to be easier to go back to paper because it’s a little more biodegradable.” Argento added, “But plastic has become easier for us, it’s just smaller and easy to slide into. The paper is a little more bulky on the counters and takes up more room.”

David Painter, owner of SPD Market, said that the survey is straight forward, and that, although his store uses both plastic and paper bags, he has seen an uptick of customers who use their own reusable bags.

“We’ve always been very supportive of it. Our main goal, and I think is the main goal of businesses like ours, is we prefer to see customers bring their own bags in,” Painter told The Union. “Getting rid of bags all together, can solve a few problems.”

Painter also owns an SPD Market location in Grass Valley and said that it would be ideal for his annual budgeting if both cities, and cities countywide, all had the same policy toward plastic bags.

“Eventually Grass Valley will pass a similar ordinance, it will happen. The state is looking at a statewide ordinance, and there’s a lot of counties throughout California that already have the ordinance,” Painter said. “So it’s eventually going to happen. We would like to see it happen all at the same time. But things like that don’t usually work out like that.”

More than 100 cities and counties in California have bag ordinances similar to the one Nevada City has proposed. But for cities and counties looking to adopt a plastic bag policy, a pending state senate bill, SB270, could override any local policy that is not put into effect before the Senate bill passes.

“There is the political will apparently at the state level, so it’s highly likely going to happen,” Harris said. “Currently the way the state bill is worded, if a city pits something in place before the state does — and I think September is when that time is — then the city will take precedence over whatever the state puts in.”

Harris said that after feedback from local businesses, through the survey, the city plans to have the first reading of the ordinance in July, in order to have it in effect before the state does.

Passing the citywide policy before the state allows Nevada City to create its own local fee limits, keeping the plastic bag policy in the hands of the city.

“Ideally the whole western county would go forward with something consistent so everybody would be on a level playing field,” Harris said.

Grass Valley City Council member Lisa Swarthout said Grass Valley will visit a similar plastic bag ordinance in April.

“We want to be on the same page,” Swarthout said. “We have the majority of retail stores in the western county, so we wouldn’t want to provide an ordinance that wasn’t in Nevada City because that wouldn’t be fair.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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The Union Updated Mar 24, 2014 11:02PM Published Mar 26, 2014 01:03AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.