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County plastic bag ban upheld in court 

On the same day a plastic bag ban went into effect, a challenge to the controversial law impacting grocery and other retail outlets across San Luis Obispo County was shot down by a SLO County Superior Court judge.

On Oct. 1, stores across the county stopped using the bags, which proponents of the law say are environmentally harmful, in lieu of selling reusable fabric bags. Stores may continue to sell paper bags, however, at a cost to the consumer of 10 cents each.

Late in the afternoon, Judge Charles Crandall denied a challenge to the new law, filed by a group called the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which he described as an “unincorporated association of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors.”

Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the coalition had to present evidence that, despite the alleged benefits of the ordinance, it would actually cause harm to the environment. Crandall found that none of the evidence offered had anything to do with San Luis Obispo County’s specific ordinance.

“Hence, the Coalition is trying to knock down a straw man of its own creation,” Crandall wrote. “Further, much of the Coalition’s ‘evidence’ consists of arguments, crafted by its lawyer, interpreting reports from other regions of the United States and other countries.”

Despite the environmental benefits of ridding the county of the plastic variety of bag, Crandall noted in his 15-page ruling that paper bags present their own hazards to the environment. According to Crandall, though roughly 20 percent of paper bags are recycled, the remainder end up in landfills, as litter, or are composted. He added that in their lifetime, paper bags produce larger greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore, Crandall argued, the County Integrated Waste Management Authority legitimately encouraged the use of reusable fabric bags.

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