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Berkeley and San Diego debate more plastic bans

Although California recently passed state laws regulating some single-use plastics, some cities in California are getting a head start with their own bans.

For example, the state is phasing out plastic produce bags in grocery stores effective Jan. 1, 2025, but Berkley is proposing to move up the ban locally to Jan. 1, 2023.

“Berkeley’s accelerating implementation and … in addition to that, they are banning all plastic film carry out bags,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Sacramento-based California Against Waste.

Berkeley is located in Alameda County, which has a local ordinance that has an exemption for thicker, reusable plastic bags. But Berkeley is overriding that rule and banning plastic film bags entirely.

“If retailers and bag manufacturers can’t come together with a real and convenient pathway for consumers to recycle, Berkeley will not be the last community to ban these bags entirely,” Murray said.

Berkeley had been planning to make these changes roughly 18 months before the state law change was announced. As of right now, Berkeley is the only city planning to implement a ban faster than the state law.

“They’ve been working on this policy for some time, both in terms of dealing with pre-checkout bags, dealing with stores that were not covered by the Alameda County ordinance or the state law with regard to carry out bags,” Murray said.

Meantime, San Diego’s City Council on Nov. 15 passed a ban on many polystyrene products, including foam foodservice, trays and egg cartons.

The council passed a similar law in 2019, but it was challenged by local businesses that argued that the city needed to do an environmental review first. Once that review was completed, the city repealed the 2019 ordinance.

More than 100 cities in California already have PS takeout packaging bans in place. But San Diego’s is broader, and includes products like ice chests and coolers.

The revised ban passed by a 7-1 vote. San Diego’s ordinance goes into effect on April 1, 2023.

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