S. Tahoe reaffirms decision to ban plastic bags


By Kathryn Reed

Advocates for banning plastic bags in South Lake Tahoe got a partial win Tuesday.

While the ordinance for the ban was on the consent agenda as a second reading, it got pulled for discussion.

Tim James, manager of the California Grocers Association, wanted time to explain how without putting a fee for paper bags in the ordinance, the council would hurt businesses.

“When you only ban plastic, there is a move to paper,” James told the council on Oct. 15. “In South Lake Tahoe, if you go without a fee, it will be about a $60,000 increase in bag costs to have free paper and no plastic available.”

James represents the two Raleys and one Safeway in town.

Ryan Schouten, whose family owns the Grocery Outlet, agreed with most of what James had to say.

“We don’t offer paper bags because of the cost. They are 9 to 10 cents for us,” Schouten said. He expects his store alone will take a $50,000 hit each year to provide paper bags.

Plastic grocery bags on average cost 3 cents each.

The ordinance takes effect Jan. 15 for all grocery stores in South Lake Tahoe and on Oct. 15, 2014, for all other retail establishments.

Resident Norm Strobel told the council he and his wife would shop outside the city if the ban were approved.

Eleven of the 13 people who spoke at the meeting favored the ban. One of those advocates was B Gorman, CEO of Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce. She said not putting the fee in for paper was a vote against business.

Many of the 80-plus jurisdictions in California that have implemented plastic bag ordinances also impose a fee for paper. This is designed to be an incentive for people to switch to reusable bags that they would bring to the store.

Councilmember Hal Cole believes charging a fee for a bag is a tax that shoppers should not have to endure. He was the deciding vote Tuesday as well as earlier this month.

Councilmembers Tom Davis and JoAnn Conner have been adamantly against the ban. He believes there is not a plastic bag issue. She believes there are health concerns with reusing canvas bags or the like. He would support the state taking the lead. She doesn’t believe stores have been part of the discussion.

The bag ban has been discussed for four years in South Lake Tahoe. And stores like Safeway, T.J. Maxx, Kmart and Big 5 operate stores in jurisdictions that have banned plastic bags and have managed to survive.

Councilmembers Angela Swanson and Brooke Laine wanted the fee for paper. But what they wanted more was for plastic to be banned, so they voted for the ordinance without the fee.

It was the same 3-2 vote as two weeks ago to ban plastic bags, with Davis and Conner in the minority.

It was agreed that a few months after the plastic ban has been in effect the council would revisit the ordinance to see how it is working.

In other action:

• The second reading of the tourist core area plan was voted on. This time Conner voted for it. It passed unanimously, where it was a 4-1 vote at the first reading earlier this month.


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Comments (22)
  1. hmmm... says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    Perhaps all the local vendors can purchase their paper bags together, in hyperbulk, to drive the cost down. Maybe put a picture of the lake on them, or a bear, or coyote, or a goose strangled by a plastic bag with a little circle/slash thingy (instead of them all purchasing separately with their stores’ logo) or an ‘merican flag(yuk yuk)After all, people need to be reminded that it is PATRIOTIC to conserve resources or use renewables. Maybe the Chamber could take the lead on that.

  2. DaveH says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    What we we need now is someone to design a cool looking Tahoe reusable bag and have them available everywhere. The goal is really to get away from plastic AND paper. Single use bags are simply a waste of resources with plastic being the more damaging to the environment.

  3. Dean says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    I hate the plastic bags, but don’t think we should have to pay for the paper. If checkers learn how to bag, they can fit a lot in a paper bag. What used to fit in a paper bag now takes 3 or 4 plastic bags, so where is the savings or soon to be loss for the stores? I’m all for reusable bags, but don’t always remember to bring them in with me.

  4. A.B. says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    Well, a tax would solve just about anything, right?

    Kudos to Hal Cole for his well thought out position!

  5. jenny says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    The greatest incentive for using reusable bags is to charge for paper bags. I’d like to see a fee placed on paper bags. It also levels the playing field for the stores.

    Plus, the marketing of one’s business with logos on tote bags is ideal, a walking ‘billboard’ as someone shops with their bag. A win-win.

  6. Lovely Lois says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    I’ve got some questions:

    Will I be allowed to bring my own plastic bags (good for probably one reuse), or is that against the rules? I have a large supply of them.

    Also, a few years ago, Raley’s gave the customer a .05 credit for every paper bag they brought in. Those bags can be reused a few more times than plastic. Why not revert to that? It’s half the cost to Raley’s than buying new.

  7. FULL TIME says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    This ban is just a joke, more environmental shell games, these tree huggers sit around and smoke as they tell each other how to save the world, then jump into their SUV, of course each one drives alone. So sick of this movement they do nothing but cost everyone money.

  8. Judy Kennedy says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    If there are no single use plastic bags, we will then need to buy big black garbage bags, as we use our grocery bags for garbage. Also, what about the plastic bags used for produce? What about the packaging used for meat with plastic and Styrofoam? How exactly is this helping the environment?

    The plastic gyres throughout our oceans are packed with disintegrated bits of plastic from single use water bottles and other assorted plastic items which degrade to miniscule bits that kill sea creatures and birds when they ingest them. This is a bigger problem than single use plastic grocery bags. Aren’t they supposed to disintegrate in sunlight?

    Banning plastic bags really doesn’t solve the problem; it just creates new problems, such as the worry about bacterial contamination. Also, what about the tourists? Do we expect our visitors to pack reusable grocery backs in their luggage now?

  9. Garry Bowen says - Posted: October 16, 2013

    Going in reverse order, starting with Ms. Kennedy above, UV rays (i.e., sunlight) are the only thing known to break down plastic, so when the “mass” gets big enough, like the ‘gyres’ (an actual word; look it up), it is weighed down, going below the surface, where sunlight cannot reach it; at that point, the accumulation is worked on by constant wave action, down to the particulate level she mentions, but are then consumed to become part of the Food Chain. . .something very dangerous to us all. . . that is what makes polyethylene (plastic grocery bags) a large part of this problem: given that 800,000,000 of them are produced annually, but do not “disappear” into ‘thin air’ – they just accumulate. . .as do all forms of mentioned plastic.

    As to our local ordinance, the follow-up Op/Ed piece co-authored by the Grocery Association and Mr/Ms. Schouten (Grocery Outlet) was very well-done, but not adamant enough: one of the few times that politicians can easily be agreed with here, is that absent an ordinance that includes a nominal charge (.05) to be followed by all grocers in a town, it then becomes a competitive issue – who does, or doesn’t, charge “extra”.

    Hopefully, those other than Mr./Ms. Strobel will go along with what is essentially a moral issue, not to mention another petroleum product to have to deal with.

    It’s been along time time since the “future” was whispered in Benjamin’s ear: “plastic !” (Dustin Hoffman in ‘The Graduate’) as being simultaneously a panacea & career-field.

    That future is passing, without continually adding more damage. . .paper is actually conducive to some food (i.e., mushrooms) as condensation within plastic can soon rot food that’s left in them (due to the inner moisture condensation that cannot escape) – yet another reason not to have so many to get rid of. . .

  10. hmmm... says - Posted: October 17, 2013

    @FULLTIME- thanks for your sage insight into the motivation and behavior of ‘liberals’.

  11. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: October 17, 2013

    Definition of steward (n): one who administers anything as the agent of another or others

    People are the ‘stewards’ of this planet and as such the administering agents of nearly everything, certainly more so than those members of the animal kingdom. We can choose stewardship that damages the environment and planet or we can choose stewardship to cause less damage to the environment and planet. The issue of single-use bags whether paper or plastic is really a matter of stewardship. I think that most everyone knows that plastic bags are bad for the environment and the planet, that paper bags usually require using some natural resource, and that the production of both products requires energy in their manufacture. And decomposition is a whole other subject.

    I think what this matter comes down to is whether an individual wants to cause less damage to the environment and planet or more damage to the environment and planet through their personal stewardship choice.

  12. sandsconnect says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    Favorite snapshot from article:

    “Resident Norm Strobel told the council he and his wife would shop outside the city if the ban were approved.”

    Dude must really like plastic bags!

  13. Steve says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    As much as I hate government intrusion and its silly rules and sometimes senseless and ineffective programs, I must confess the plastic bag ban and mandatory charge for paper bags in the Bay Area is working. The cashier at Rite Aid in Los Altos told me the store’s use of paper bags is down dramatically, and they no longer stock plastic. People keep old bags in their cars and bring them in, or if making a small purchase simply do not want a bag.

    What is happening as a result is consumers are now hoarding their old plastic bags for reuse for other purposes, same as with the old incandescent light bulbs. One can only wonder what they will do when their own plastic bags are gone.

  14. Buck says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    Wait til you go to the check out counter and the person in front of you pulls out a disgusting cloth bag and fills it were you stuff is going next. The bag might be fresh out of the trunk of their car or fresh off the bathroom floor. Everyone has different hygiene levels. CLEAN IS A PLASTIC BAG.

  15. BijouBill says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    Politics ain’t beanbag.
    I think Councilmember Conner picked a no win issue to take to the mat over. Her demeanor during the comments by citizens was a little testy but the vilifying, bullying, ripping to shreds comments are a tad over the top… No?
    I think she’s wrong about the bags and her internet “proof” about their inconsequential effects on our environment is laughable, the scientific data about this topic is overwhelmingly the opposite of her opinion. I can provide numerous websites that maintain that second hand cigarette smoke is harmless.

    I think whomever wants to start the recall petition should be the person willing to take the seat. I predict that by the time this brave soul has this poorly paid job “in the Tahoe fishbowl” for about 6 months they’ll take their plastic bags and tie them snugly around their throat and be done with it.

  16. Rob5 says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    I am trying to educate myself about plastic bags. I can only find sites on the Internet by environmental groups or the oil companies. Not surprisingly they contradict each other. The references given here (perhaps in a related article) are both from groups against plastic bags and provide no references. Many of the sites are simply a tirade against plastic and not specific to bags.

    So, does anyone have references to research by objective sources regarding this issue?

  17. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: October 18, 2013


    So what’s your take on shopping carts? No one knows where a shopping cart has been or how it was used prior to their selecting it at the grocery store and then placing all their yummy foodstuffs down inside the cavity of this rolling petri-dish. Or equally as thought provoking, in the top section of the cart where someone’s little bundle of joy has had their bottom for who knows how long and not knowing the condition of that protective diaper device. You can’t assume that the wetness in that cart is from the recently sprinkled fresh produce Buck.

    I think I’d rather take my chances with the reusable bags.

  18. TeaTotal says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    Buck-how about those people without hygiene levels of real Americans that handle the fruits and vegetables??-disgusting! you should shop from home-next will be paid parking at the grocery stores!!!-Thanks Obama!

  19. foxyg says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    You want to watch this 6 min movie on Youtube:

    Title: Are You Being Told the Trust about Plastic Bags?

    Or directly at this website:

    This movie has cited specific scientists’ name, their organizations, and the data they collected. You will also learned how they were interpreted by the activists and policy makers. I hope you find it both informative and – amusing.

    Real scientists vow to the unbiased principal. They involve in research and data gathering. They do not advocate. They do not get involve in activism.

    Those who advocates — are not scientists.

    And read these 3 articles. I hope they will help you make informed decision on plastic bags ban.

    Article by Carson Bruno, Hoover Institute, Stanford University — Generate ideas for a free society:
    SB405 California Statewide Plastic Bag Bans

    Article comparing paper bags vs. plastic bags with numbers:

    Todd Myers’ blog: The Trendy Drive to Ban Plastic Grocery Bags, Does It really Help The Environment? :

    Then, come to this blog and website: — many more articles by various individuals / sources.

  20. BijouBill says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    The science deniers are well funded by the polluters and the lazy-minded are easily, willfully duped as a matter of their personal convenience.
    All in the name of hate gubmint liberty and freedumb.

    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other involves orcs.” John Rogers

  21. cosa pescado says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    Bill, that is a hilarious quote.

    I read the Tolkien books and Calvin and Hobbes.
    And a lot of Gary Larson.
    And Silverstein.
    I turned out OK.

  22. copper says - Posted: October 18, 2013

    I first read “Atlas Shrugged” when I was a junior in high school, about a year after it came out. I remember the writing as being simplistic and the story like something out of a Superman comic.

    I re-read it last year, it and I about 55 years older, just to see if it was as I recalled. Actually it was much worse – my teen age brain obviously underestimated the nonsensical nature of the story, as well as the childlike simplicity of the author’s philosophy.

    Maybe if the current breed of screwball conservatives had actually learned how to read books when they were in high school they might have a better understanding of the world today. John Galt is a cartoon character, dreamed up by a lonely Russian woman, in case anyone wants to know or cares.