It’s official: South Bay protected by bag bans

Last night, the Milpitas City Council voted unanimously to ban disposable plastic shopping bags. This means less throwaway plastic in our lives and less pollution in our creeks and the Bay. After several years of delay, the council finally adopted a ban, filling the last gap in the ring of bag bans that protects South Bay habitats and wildlife.

The ordinance will apply to all retailers in the city starting January 1, 2016. Grocers, hardware stores, clothing stores, and others in the city will no longer hand out plastic bags at the checkout stand, and will instead make reusable and paper bags available for a minimum of 10 cents each. As in other cities, customers can easily avoid paying for bags by bringing their own.

Between now and January, City of Milpitas staff will work with businesses to ease the transition and will continue handing out reusable bags to residents.

The data on bag bans speaks for itself: Three years after San Jose implemented its bag ordinance, that city reports that plastic bag litter decreased by 71 percent in local creeks and 62 percent in city storm drains.

Five years ago, Save The Bay reported that more than a million plastic bags were flowing into the Bay every year. We’re happy to say that we no longer use that statistic, because more than 80 percent of Bay Area residents now live in a city that has banned plastic bags. The more cities that follow in Milpitas’ footsteps, the more we can report positive statistics about the health of the Bay.