Last night, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance to prohibit retailers from distributing single-use plastic bags in the unincorporated county. The ordinance also stated that the stores would be required to charge a fee for all bags they provide.

The ordinance is scheduled to return to the board agenda on Aug. 26 for final passage.

This is huge news since SOS and the Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance—a group which formed in early 2011 and now includes more than 100 businesses and nonprofits that all support single-use bag bans—have been working with the County of Monterey for three years to pass a plastic bag ban.

bag_on_beachThe journey to this particular ban started at the end of 2010 when the State of California was close to passing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. When the ban was shut down by just a few votes, Supervisor Mark Stone called SOS and asked that we help move this ban on a local level.

And so, in early 2011, we formed the Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance. We figured that we could be a lot more effective at passing single-use bag bans in jurisdictions surrounding the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary if we banded together with groups that have strong connections in their communities. During Tuesday’s meeting, several members of the Alliance spoke in support of the ban: Denyse and Robert Frischmuth, Natalie Zayas and Matthew Spiegl.

Needless to say, this ban is a long time coming.

In addition to banning the distribution of single-use bags, two more exciting things came out of this decision:

1. This ban can now serve as a model that all Monterey cities can adopt at no cost to them

2. The Monterey County Board of Supervisors included a more realistic definition of a reusable bag (4.0 mil thickness) in the ban. Up until this point, plastic bags at 2.25 mil thickness were considered “reusable.” (SOS tested this theory by counting shoppers to see how many are returning with the 2.25 mil thick plastic bags. Over one month’s time, only four out of 740 shoppers brought them back to the store.) The City of Watsonville was the first jurisdiction in the state to amend its ban to include the 4.0 mil thickness requirement just a few months ago. The City of Capitola and the City and County of Santa Cruz followed suit.

These victories are worth celebrating, but our work is far from over. We will continue to advocate for plastic-bag bans around the Central Coast. Thank you for your continued support!

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