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Plastic bag ban may face environmental hurdles

ENCINITAS — Encinitas’ proposed plastic-bag ordinance could require a full-scale environmental study that would set its passage back by up to a year, city staff said in a report.

By that time, however, a state law might be passed that would render the efforts moot.

The Encinitas City Council received the report at its Wednesday meeting.

The report includes a study by Rincon Consultants that says the increase in manufacturing and laundry loads associated with the reusable bags, which would replace plastic bags as a result of the ordinance, would actually increase greenhouse gases compared to current conditions.

This would require the city to conduct an environmental impact report to address the increased greenhouse gases before proceeding. The report could take six to 12 months to complete and cost $30,000.

At the same time, state legislators are weighing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags starting July 1, 2015. The proposed law also includes a clause pre-empting cities from adopting their own measures starting Sept. 1.

The state’s ban does not have a prohibition at retailers such as hardware stores and clothing stores, which the city’s proposal includes.

Encinitas is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Solana Beach and Los Angeles County, which have similar bans.

The ordinance would gradually phase out single-use plastic bags in grocery stores, mini-marts and retail establishments, and would require shoppers to pay at least 10 cents for recyclable paper bags. The ordinance would incentivize reusable bag usage by giving shoppers a 5 cent per-bag rebate.

One council member said he was disappointed by the study’s findings, including the rationale behind the increased number of laundry loads that would be created by the increased number of reusable bags.

“It’s frustrating,” Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz said. “The city has been at this effort to ban plastic bags for a really long time, and for a coastal community, it is an important part of environmental stewardship to reduce the number of plastic bags that go in the waste stream.”

Kranz said he had hoped the city would be able to pass the ban to create some consistency between the city and its neighbor, Solana Beach. The big difference between the two cities, Kranz said, turned out to be the population.

“They had fewer environmental and study requirements,” he said. “We are the larger city, and we had to do this study and the results are pretty surprising.

“It adds to cynicism about government,” Kranz said about some of the methodology. “It is absurd some of the stuff they are using to calculate the impacts of the ban. The methodology needs to have logic applied to it, so we will receive report and make some decisions.”