Berkeley Learns From Oakland's Plastic Bag Failure

Berkeley wants to jump on San Francisco's bandwagon.

The famously liberal East Bay town is looking into following San Francisco's lead -- and San Jose's flirtation -- and ban plastic bags at retail stores and charge for paper bags.

The city council could vote as early as February on a plastic bag ban that would also allow stores to charge between 15 to 25 cents for paper bags.

What is the motivation behind the plan? To keep plastic bags out of the bay. About 1 million of the controversial pouches find their way into the bay every year, the San Jose Mercury reports.

Since San Francisco took the nation's first stand against plastic bags in 2007, other cities across the country and the Bay Area have looked into a ban. But Berkeley's approach is considered unique and a preemptive strike at potential lawsuits that have plagued cities' bans.

Oakland had to throw out a ban on plastic bags after a lawsuit argued the city failed to examine the environmental impacts of forcing people to use more paper bags.

By charging for paper bags, Berkeley may be able to argue it is not simply shifting the fight from protecting waters to preserving trees, but instead it is pushing shoppers to bring their own cloth bags from home.

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