The Los Altos City Council March 26 approved a $10,000 budget for a public outreach program to educate residents and merchants about the city’s upcoming plastic-bag ban. The 4-1 vote followed the council’s rejection of a $13,000 outreach program as part of its February approval of the ban.
The plan would establish a multipronged educational approach on the ban that includes both merchant and public outreach forums.
Councilwoman Val Carpenter cast the lone dissenting vote after expressing reservations over a $6,000 appropriation as part of the budget to purchase 3,000 reusable bags, which would be distributed to residents at public events leading up to the ban.
Carpenter said that while she supported the plan in general, $10,000 “is still too much money to spend on this program.”
“It’s a small amount of money, I understand that,” said Carpenter, who noted that she could support the plan at a reduced budget of $5,500. “But I think we need to be conscious of small as well as large expenditures.”
Los Altos Village Association (LAVA) Executive Director Nancy Dunaway told the council that purchasing the bags – which will display a “Shop Los Altos” theme – and handing them out to residents would serve as a “goodwill measure to the community.”
“We do feel that it’s another good opportunity for the city to say, ‘Shop local,’” added Los Altos Chamber of Commerce President Julie Rose.
The chamber ($500) and LAVA ($1,000) will contribute more money for the purchase of additional reusable bags above 3,000, according to a city staff report.
The city’s outreach efforts will include direct-mail announcements to Los Altos retailers regarding the ordinance, which prohibits retailers that sell clothing, food or personal items from distributing single-use plastic bags to customers beginning July 4. As part of the ban, retailers must charge customers 10 cents for each single recycled-content paper, reusable plastic or cloth bag.
Other efforts by the city will include providing information toolkits to affected merchants with informational display posters, a list of paper and reusable bag suppliers and a sheet of frequently asked questions.
The city also plans to schedule two merchant forums and one specifically directed to residents later this year. The staff report included notice of the addition of a website with specific information on the ordinance.
The plan includes information tables staffed by GreenTown Los Altos volunteers at the downtown Farmers’ Market and other city events to educate residents. A color flier inserted in residents’ utility bills later this month will also provide information on the ban.