All but banished from the unincorporated county. Photo by Curtis Cartier.

On Tuesday, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a ban on single-use plastic bags in all unincorporated areas of the county. “The plastic bag problem is a statewide issue, but because the state legislature failed to get it done, we had to move forward locally to make this happen,” said Supervisor Mark Stone, who spearheaded the effort in conjunction with Save Our Shores.

The county’s ban is not the first in the state, but it is the most stringent. Once the ordinance goes into effect, retailers and food vendors will no longer be allowed to distribute plastic bags to their clients. Paper bags may still be made available, but these will cost shoppers 10 cents a bag. The ultimate goal is to encourage users to avoid one-use bags and make the switch to reusable bags. This, says Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores, “will protect our oceans from this harmful product.” In addition to the environmental damage caused to the oceans, plastic bags pose a financial challenge as well. The State of California alone spends about $25 million sending plastic bags to the landfills each year, and another $8.5 million to remove littered bags from streets. Read more at Save Our Shores and the Santa Cruz Sentinel.