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Proposed bag bans shaping up in Nevada County

Dave Brooksher
Staff Writer

Nevada City added a ban on distributing single-use plastic bags to the municipal code in June. The city of Grass Valley is also working on a bag-ban ordinance, but so far, it’s taking a slightly different shape.

At the end of the June 24 Grass Valley City Council meeting, city staff was directed to come back with a draft ordinance restricting the distribution of single-use plastic bags without requiring businesses to charge a mandatory fee for paper bags or keep records of how many paper bags have been distributed.

Tim James, manager of local government relations for the California Grocers Association, says most consumers will opt for free paper bags rather than bringing their own.

That will drive up costs for grocers, since paper bags are much more expensive than plastic ones.

“That’s why we have the concern with Grass Valley,” James said.

“They’re using a model that has been proven over time to cost grocers more money.”

“The key thing to recognize is that plastic bags cost about a penny or two to have the store procure and then provide, but a paper bag is anywhere from 7 to 14 cents,” James said.

Some customers may also favor shopping in Grass Valley for the free bags, rather than shopping at Nevada City establishments that are obligated to charge for them.

Stores that maintain retail locations in both cities, like SPD, will have to conform to both ordinances. That means employers will have to procure bags differently for each store, and develop separate training protocols for employees.

“When you have the inconsistency, that inconsistency creates costs,” James said.

“We’re not necessarily taking a position on whether or not Grass Valley should regulate bags, it’s all in the how,” James said.

“There’s proven models out there that still hit the environmental goals while not increasing the costs to sell groceries, and that’s key for us.”

Council member Lisa Swarthout, owner of Grass Valley’s Mill Street Clothing Company and chairperson of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council, is not convinced by James’ argument.

“Tim James is a lobbyist who works for the grocery industry, and their purpose is to get the best deal for their client,” Swarthout said.

“I would rather talk with the local business people, which I have done, and they do not support a government fee on bags.”

“I’m a hundred percent supportive of banning single-use plastic bags, not just in grocery and drug stores, but in all stores. But I’m not in favor of the government imposing a fee that the stores have to charge people. If the stores want to charge and recoup that cost, it should be their business decision.”

Grass Valley’s bag ban is still in its earliest possible phase, and to date city staff has not yet presented the council with a draft ordinance.

Nevada City’s bag ban has already been added to the municipal code, but does not take effect until January 2015.

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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