The “plastic bag monster” asks residents to ditch plastic bags in favor of reusable during an Encinitas parade. Yet again, Encinitas is looking into a plastic bag ban. Photo by Jared Whitlock

Encinitas will mull over potential plastic bag ban

ENCINITAS — A plastic bag ban is in the city’s sights again. The Encinitas Environmental Commission has been researching the fiscal and environmental impacts of a plastic bag ban. 

At the March 27 Council meeting, the commission will present its findings to Council. Among its options, Council could give direction to begin developing a plastic bag ban ordinance, according to the commission’s agenda report that was released this week.

“It’s too early to say what will occur at the meeting,” said Jacy Bolden, the city’s Environmental Commission coordinator. “We’re in the research phase and looking for direction from Council for what we should do next.”

Before the March 27 meeting, the commission will settle on its recommendations for Council at its next public meeting March 14 at City Hall.

“There’s an incredible amount of information out there on plastic bags,” Bolden said. “We’re still developing our report.”

As part of the commission’s research, Bolden noted it’s closely monitoring state legislation that would ban single-use carryout bags for large retailers in 2015, and then convenience stores and smaller businesses in 2016. Encinitas could wait to see if that passes and proceed from there.

Additionally, the commission is looking at cities’ varying approaches to scrapping plastic bags. For instance, in Solana Beach plastic bags have been banned, and the city also requires businesses charge 10 cents per paper bag, which goes back to the retailer. However, the fee has drawn criticisms from many businesses, and as a result, Solana Beach plans to revisit its ban.

“We’re keeping abreast of all the bag-ban developments around the state,” Bolden said. “Those will factor into our report.”

In 2008, Encinitas moved to ban or place a fee on plastic bags with a 3-2 vote. But the plastic-bag industry threatened litigation, arguing the city needed to complete an environmental impact report. Due to the cost involved, the city never adopted the ordinance.

Instead, Bolden noted the city kick-started the countywide “Day Without a Bag.” The day encourages shoppers to bring their own bags when shopping at grocery stores and other retail outlets.

Yet, an interest in banning plastic bags at stores remained, Bolden said.

If the city opts to move forward with a ban, it’s likely Encinitas would still need to conduct an environmental impact report. The ballpark cost for the report is $25,000 should Encinitas decide to contract out to another agency, though Bolden noted Encinitas is capable of analyzing it in-house.

Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said she likes the idea of a plastic bag ban; however, she’s waiting for more information before taking a stance.

“I support the concept of a ban,” Shaffer said. “But the devil is in the details.

“I look forward to learning more at the Council meeting,” Shaffer added.

In addition to the Encinitas Environmental Commission, other city commissions will report to Council during the March 27 meeting.