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Whole Foods Backpedals on Paper Bag Fee

Grocery chain had planned to impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags at its four stores in Marin to comply with new county ordinance but rescinded the move after realizing it didn’t apply to its stores.

has rescinded a plan to impose a 5-cent fee on all paper bags handed out at its four stores in Marin, saying it was confused about the applicability of the that goes into effect Jan. 1.

The grocery chain, with one store in Novato, one in San Rafael and two in Mill Valley, posted signs last week (pictured at right) at its stores notifying customers that it would be charging 5 cents per paper bag as of Jan. 1.

In doing so, it cited the plastic bag ban ordinance last January. The ordinance includes the 5-cent fee as a way to discourage customers from simply transitioning from plastic bags to paper bags once the plastic ban goes into effect.

But the county ordinance only applies to retail markets in unincorporated Marin — the in Strawberry but the one at the Millworks building in downtown Novato, for instance. For a similar plastic bag ban to go into effect at stores within city limits, each respective city council would need to pass its own ordinance.

Dori Beron, the manager of the Whole Foods on East Blithedale in Mill Valley, said the stores took down the signs after realizing that the county ban wouldn’t apply to Whole Foods’ four stores in Marin.

“It was unclear to us and we pulled the signs down,” she said. “We don’t want to impose the fee unless we have to.”

The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition after the board approved the ban, and despite a Marin Superior Court ruling in September that threw out the group’s attempt to block the ban, the organization’s founder and attorney Stephen Joseph appealed the ruling Nov. 29. He must file an appellate brief in February.

RJM January 01, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Wow , good news , if I had to pay a five cent fee at Whole Foods here in town it would be the first nickle I spent there.
LP January 01, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I've been to discount food stores in the mid-west where they do this just to keep overhead down. Everytime I go to Whole Foods (which is only about once a month) they always give me paper, never plastic. I don't think I realized plastic was an option. However, I would be willing to throw in a dime every now and then for a bag, those things come in so handy.
Lou Judson January 01, 2012 at 07:01 PM
When the first Marin WF moved into the worst location ofr a busy store in Mill Valley, they drove fine Marin LOCALLY OWNED natural food stores out of business - and then raised their prices by about double! I will never shop at WF in my fifetime, premanent boycott even if I am the only one. Bad new, bad business, deceitful claims on their merchandise. L
Ella January 01, 2012 at 10:40 PM
You wouldn't need to worry about a fee if you would just BRING YOUR OWN BAGS to the store. You should be doing this anyway. Are you? Just keep them in your trunk. Then you always have them handy.
RJM January 02, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I wouldn't be surprised to see them pack up and leave in the next year .
Craig Belfor January 02, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I'm with you Lou. They hired the guy heading the plans for the Throckmorton store's planned move from the store on Throckmorton to a new location on Miller Ave, at the site of the old grocery store. The guy sold out his old boss, and Whole Foods backstabbed the store out of their new location. They also buy chicken from the same folks that sell to Safeway, but get it relabeled as organic to fool the the same people who think Hummer Hybrids help the environment.
Nick Kies January 02, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Aren't paper bags made from cottonwood trees that are farmed near rivers and grow reallly fast. I don't think paper bags are that big of an issue. As for stores charging a nickel, I'd like to see what they would do if you said no just take away the grociers I can't carry seprerately and I'll only take a few things. They make a lot of money off of free bags with the extra stuff you buy you don't need. If the government wants to have a nickel charge fine, but call it a fee and spend it on recycling or something.
Charles Thompson January 02, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Could this issue contain a bit of emotional nose tweaking? It miffs me to be charged for something that used to be free. And I fully think this is the continued work of those meddling enviro-wackos. But wait a minute... When I go to Costco, they offer me neither paper nor plastic. I happily leave with a basket full of unbagged goods, and occasionally use one of those weird vegetable boxes that are destined for recycle anyway. I'm never miffed at this, hence the reason i think this is an emotional issue. I say let the stores decide what they give away or charge for, and can we please dispense with one group trying to foist their druthers on another group.
LP January 02, 2012 at 07:37 AM
Actually I don't normally vote yes on tax hikes, because those half cent takes keep increasing (ever read how much tax you pay on gas). If you've ever had a sick kid in a car you'd know how those bags come in handy, somehow cloth just don't contain puke the same. Or if you're on vacation with a dog and run out of baggies, another great use. I could go on, but I'll stop.
Deborah Hughes January 02, 2012 at 08:02 AM
Really, it's so easy. I carry cloth bags in my car (some of which I have had for 20+ years and bought at garage sales for 10 to 50 cents) and when I buy five or less items, I just carry them out sans bag. I also use a stainless steel water bottle, and reusable coffee mug. I am not an enviro freak, I just live in a small space, and don't need to clutter my home with garbage. Imagine if we just lived like our grandparents did and reused stuff till it actually wore out.
Lynne Wasley January 02, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Though I understand that change can be difficult (plus most of us don't like to be told what to do!), switching to reusable bags is truly a simple and inexpensive way to be a part of positive change. I'm not an "enviro freak" but I always carry/use reusable bags, it's an easy habit to adopt. By avoiding paper and plastic bags one reduces the green-house gases and toxic chemicals emitted into our air and water, lessens the natural resources (trees, water, oil, etc) consumed and decreases the amount of garbage/landfill generated (recycling rates of disposable bags are extremely low for both paper and plastic). A small change like using reusable bags can make a big difference. I hope some Novato Patch readers consider putting it on their 2012 resolution list (far easier than not eating sweets/junkfood - a resolution I broke first thing on the morning of Jan 1 when I ate chocolate chip cookies for breakfast!)
Lou Judson January 02, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Thanks Craig. I'd love to learn more of the background - I'm in the phone book if you care to share...
Russ January 03, 2012 at 05:46 AM
The Rite-Aid over by the Safeway in Novato is charging five cents for bags. Guess management didn't get the memo that it doesn't apply to them. I wonder how many other businesses are doing accidentally doing this?
RJM January 04, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Safeway here in town isn't charging for bags yet.
Lou Judson January 04, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Wouldn't that be nice! I am planning to get over to the new <Marinwood Market and see if there is a real local alternaive to both WF and "Safe" way... Ironically I just found out it was open yesterday: <http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/2011/10/07/marinwood-market-opens-where-else-in-marinwood/> Hope they can make it!

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