DEL MAR — With the first reading of an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags scheduled to go before the City Council in about a month, the group that requested the prohibition is ready to begin its outreach program to educate residents and businesses about the new law.
At their Dec. 17 meeting, members of the Sustainability Advisory Board, or SAB, outlined their upcoming efforts, which include providing information and a frequently asked questions section on the city website and distributing posters and signs to businesses.
They are also planning at least one public showing of a documentary that describes the environmental effects of plastic, including the single-use bags provided by many grocery and retail stores.
SAB members said they would like to screen “Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?” at Powerhouse Community Center before the draft law is introduced next month. A discussion with Emelia DeForce, a biologist who has studied the impacts of plastic in the ocean, will follow if she is available.
They are also looking into broadcasting the movie on Del Mar TV. Anyone interested in seeing the documentary at home can stream it on Amazon or iTunes or watch it on Pivot TV.
The city is also coordinating a reusable bag giveaway.
In early 2013 City Council asked the SAB to review a single-use plastic bag ban that was adopted a year earlier in neighboring Solana Beach.
At the time council members said reusable bags could possibly be promoted without legislation.
“One of the problems in this project has been that we don’t have a lot of entities that use plastic bags,” Councilman Don Mosier, a liaison to the advisory board, said at the time.
But following a presentation by the SAB at the Dec. 7, 2015, meeting, council directed staff to return with a draft ordinance.
Legislation approved in 2014 in California authorizing a statewide ban will be voted on in the November election.
About 150 municipalities in California have adopted more than 110 ordinances banning plastic bags, which are not biodegradable and often end up in storm drains and waterways, posing a threat to marine life.
According to a timeline created by the SAB, the ordinance will be introduced Feb. 6 and take effect in March. But the group is recommending a phased approach that gives retail businesses six months to deplete existing inventory.
Restaurants and the farmers market would have until April 2017 to comply with the new law.
To encourage immediate compliance, Councilman Dwight Worden suggested buying existing inventory from stores and restaurants.
Because the goal is to encourage people to shop with reusable bags, stores can sell paper bags for 10 cents to recoup the increased cost of providing paper over plastic.
The sustainability group sought input from 22 local businesses and made a presentation to the Business Support Advisory Committee, which according to the Dec. 7 City Council staff report, “was generally accepting of the concept of a plastic bag ban for retail businesses, with modifications for special circumstances related to restaurants” for hot liquid foods such as soup.
Compliance could be easier and faster in Del Mar because the city is not home to a grocery store.
Councilman Terry Sinnott said he would like to see more information about the cost of cleaning plastic bags off the beach.
SAB members at their meeting said accurate figures might not be available, adding that the ban should be based on doing the right thing and it should not be a cost-based decision.
San Diego is in the process of creating a similar ordinance, which if enacted would ban the bags at nearby shopping centers such as Flower Hill Promenade and Del Mar Highlands.
Such a move would likely discourage people from shopping outside of Del Mar, which would result in lost tax revenue, to avoid remembering to bring reusable bags or paying for paper.
Worden said he would like to work with officials at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to enact a similar ban there. That state-owned facility lies within Del Mar’s city limits but it is governed by a different board of directors and would be exempt from the new law.