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Paper or plastic may soon drop from vernacular

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POSTED April 17, 2013 1:37 a.m.

No one seemed to be happy when the days of Manteca’s unlimited garbage came to an end.

Once a week residents could put out as many garbage cans as they wished. It would be picked up for a flat monthly fee. And if you couldn’t put everything in your garbage cans, you could leave the rest of your weekly trash tied up in 32-gallon plastic bags and city crews would retrieve that as well.

There were instances of people removing old hedges and breaking the branches down and placing them in 30 or so plastic bags and city garbage crews then whisking them away.

The days of endless garbage collection ended 22 years ago.

Manteca went to garbage cans plus blue and green recycling bins for the voluntary separation of newspapers and other recyclables

Today the three Toter system is in place and is a part of our daily routines.

There was resistance at first. But you’ll notice no one exactly pines for the old days when they had to lug around awkward and heavy 32-gallon aluminum or metal garbage cans.

The end result has made us greener. That’s not only in terms of the environment but in the cost of getting rid of our garbage. Thanks to recycling as well as composting of yard waste we have significantly reduced what we landfill. That is reflected in our monthly garbage bills that lag significantly behind inflation for the past 20 years.

The day may soon come when “paper or plastic” goes the way of 32-gallon metal trash cans.

California lawmakers are again entertaining legislation to outlaw the free distribution of single use plastic bags in grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies.

Previous attempts at such a statewide law failed to gain traction in Sacramento. This time there is a good chance it’ll pass.

The measure by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, has the backing of not just environmental groups but both the California Retailers Association and California Grocers Association as well.

Dozens of California cities have adopted plastic bag bans but no two are alike. Instead of combating the rising tide that threatens to create a confusing mosaic of rules from city to city, retailer groups are embracing a uniform statewide law.

Only about 5 percent of all plastic bags that we carry out of stores holding purchases are recycled. And unlike paper bags that have declined in popularity, plastic doesn’t decompose quickly. Depending upon what side of the plastic debate one is on, research shows plastic bags exposed to the elements take between 10 to 20 years to decompose while those buried in landfills could take from 80 to 200 years.

Under Padilla’s proposal, grocery stores and pharmacies would be banned from using plastic bags starting in 2015. Then starting in July 2016 liquor stores and convenience stores would follow suit.

A separate bill being advanced by state Sen. Lois Wolk would require all other retailers to charge a nickel for every single use plastic bag they provide customers. That money would go into a state environmental fund aimed at reducing and cleaning up litter.

It is no more intrusive than the California deposit on beverage containers. But unlike the redemption law, you will be able to avoid paying the nickel by either carrying out what you buy without a  plastic bag, reusing a plastic bag or having your own tote bag.

Those recycled shopping totes work well. I’ve been using them know for six plus years to do my shopping at SaveMart. I do my own bagging and can easily get everything I purchase each week into four bags as opposed to the 10 to 15 plastic bags courtesy clerks would use.

I also don’t have to worry about the contents spilling when I place the bags in the Escape. They are just as easy to carry – if not easier. I have had to discard just one bag in six years because it wore out.

The only thing bad about the proposed laws if they go into effect, is I will probably lose the 20 cents a week SaveMart pays me to use my own bags.

In the scheme of things, the loss of plastic bags from stores will be no different than the phasing out of the old 32-gallon metal garbage cans. In 20 years we won’t be able to imagine a world where you don’t use recyclable bags to carry home purchases.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.

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