Mayor Norris sought plastic bag ban

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, though vexed by Virginia's interpretation of the Dillon Rule, which prevents local governments from doing things not specifically enabled by the state, would like to find a way to ban plastic grocery bags and promote canvas, according to a story by NBC29. (EPA research suggests he might want to start by banning paper bags, which appear worse for the environment than plastic.)

"I'm told that an outright ban is very unlikely," Norris tells the Hook, "but that we might be able to get approval to offer incentives for alternatives."

–last updated 2:46pm, August 5


Canvas bags will need to be washed on occasion due to the occasional leaking grocery item which will use extra energy for hot water and add additional soap to the environment.

All my plastic grocery bags get used again as trash bags or lunch bags or a way to tote other items or use as dirty clothes bags when traveling. What ever ecxess I have is put back in the bag recycling bin at the store once or twice a year.

Here we go again with the "government solution". Hang on to your wallets! You'll have loose change in the end.

Shut up Dave.

This is freakin' ridiculus. I refuse to use canvas bags now. I will only use plastic. We need less gov't.

Are plastic bags really that big of an issue? How about trying to combat rising unemployment in the City?

Are you going to ban bottled water too?

Not to mention those nifty canvas bags ain't free. 99 cents is a drop in the bucket for us powerful, wealthy types. But I'm sure lower-income folks aren't going to want to buy grocery bags. Maybe this is just another ploy by City Council to drive the poor out of C'ville.



The plastic bag is an icon of convenience culture, by some estimates the single most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, numbering in the trillions. They're made from petroleum or natural gas with all the attendant environmental impacts of harvesting fossil fuels. One recent study found that the inks and colorants used on some bags contain lead, a toxin. Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags after they've been used to transport a prescription home from the drugstore or a quart of milk from the grocery store. It's equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.

Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide -- about 2 percent in the U.S. -- and the rest, when discarded, can persist for centuries. They can spend eternity in landfills, but that's not always the case. "They're so aerodynamic that even when they're properly disposed of in a trash can they can still blow away and become litter," says Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. It's as litter that plastic bags have the most baleful effect. And we're not talking about your everyday eyesore.

I for one am a firm believer in paper bags. Not only are they easier to recycle, but they have a higher capacity for items and insulate groceries better. They also come in very handy for collecting and seperating other recyclable items. I would reccomend using paper bags to any environmentally conscious person.

So Kim..... Your solution is to use the big foot of government rather than an promoting your awarenes to reduce plastic bag use where not necessary. Most people would be very happy to walk out of a store carrying two items with no bag. Most stores would be happy not providing a bag in that case.

If plastic bags are outlawed, and we know paper bags are worse, for every 20 people rememering to load their cars up with canvas bags for the stop at the store oin the way home from work, 1 or 2 will forget their bags, and need to drive home to get them. So there is an hour of wasted time and half gallon of wasted gasoline. I wonder how many plastic bags could have been equivalently produced from that wasted gasoline?

If you have such a great idea why don't you set an example for us, practice what you preach, put you idea in motion. If it is such a good idea it will catch on because it works for more people than just you.

The idea that central government can make efficent decisions for everyone is a failed idea. Let your idea stand on its own merits and stop hiding behind government solutions.

I for one find so many uses for those rascally bags, I don't know what I would do without them. I think the grocery industry was genius in implementing them....quick to stuff at check uses afterwards..... then recycle when not usable. I also don't need to buy plasitc bags for small trash cans at home.

We do not have the authority to ban plastic bags and are not likely to ever get it. As I told your reporter, I am much more interested in promoting environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic or paper bags (there are many good reasons to do so) than leading a probably-fruitless campaign to ban them outright. I realize that it's not as catchy a news story as "Mayor Wants to Ban Plastic Bags in Charlottesville" but that's the reality.

That is the scary thing. If you had the probably would be un-restrained in your actions.

Have you ever thought that free enterprise tends to find the most economical and efficient way of doing things.

A public awareness campaign reduce un-needed bag use would not be a bad use of government.

Russ, I am a strong supporter of free enterprise and a strong supporter of individual action (and, where necessary, public regulation) to blunt the ill effects of free enterprise (like, for instance, environmental pollution). I believe that makes, American.

It's American to promote you thoughts...not cram them down our throats.

Okay.....I did't realize you have done an environment impact analysis of the the real cost of ramping up cotton production to produce all the canvas bags that will be needed for the retail bagging industry. Are you sure the stress from cotton farming on the environment, use of all the machinery to farm it, energy to produce the cloth, etc would not be a worse impact. In other words, are you maybe not going down the path of bio fuels, where when you factor in all the government subsidies, it actually costs more --in all respects, including environmental cost.

Kudos to the mayor for participating in this forum.


I realize that you have no control over the headlines that those in the local media write, and I admit that's what got my attention. I apologize for my earlier remark, which was more a reaction to the headline than the story itself.

However, the desire to ban anything and everything convenient in the name of saving the environment is just a little scary. Especially when there's at best a disagreement over whether oil has any impact on things like global warming. Of course it's not just you; Obama's speech about completely getting off oil in something like four years gives me the outright heebie-jeebies. But in a city that has had two near-crises with water in six years, I'm not sure that saving the environment by banning plastic bags is the best use of your time.

exerpts from:

"Cotton, one of the most popular and versatile fibers used in clothing manufacture, also has a significant environmental footprint. This crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA. The U.S. cotton crop benefits from subsidies that keep prices low and production high."

"Much of the cotton produced in the United States is exported to China and other countries with low labor costs, where the material is milled, woven into fabrics, cut, and assembled..."

"Each step of the clothing production process carries the potential for an environmental impact. For example, conventionally grown cotton, one of the most popular clothing fibers, is also one of the most water- and pesticide-dependent crops (a view disputed by Cotton Incorporated, a U.S. cotton growers' group). At the factory stage, effluent may contain a number of toxics (below, waste products from a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, spill into a stagnant pond). "

The mayor tells me by email that the NBC29 reporter overstated while he also tells me that he approached the office of State Delegate David Toscano whether "we could implement a ban or curb on plastic bags." So I've changed the headline from "seeks" to "sought."--hawes spencer, hook editor

Obama said nothing about getting "completely getting off oil in something like four years." Not even close.

Knowing that this is likely an act of futility because God knows people who think Obama wants to wean us off of oil in four years isn't going to vote for him anyway even if he woke up White tomorrow, let's set the record straight. Obama's energy plan's highlights:

* Provide short¢Ã¢â??¬term relief to American families facing pain at the pump

* Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.

* Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.

* Put 1 million Plug¢Ã¢â??¬In Hybrid cars ¢Ã¢â??‰â?¬Å? cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon ¢Ã¢â??‰â?¬Å? on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.

* Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.

* Implement an economy¢Ã¢â??¬wide cap¢Ã¢â??¬and¢Ã¢â??¬trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

And of course there's the whole tire inflation thing McCain is joking about as if it is the centerpiece of Obama's plan. It's not, but it is highly relevant. Even NASCAR and the Bush Administration have pleaded for people to tune up their cars and properly inflate their tires. Just inflating tires will save in one year - this is a biggie - more oil than offshore drilling could provide in 4 years at full output.

As for global warming, yes there are some people who refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming empirical evidence that people are contributing most if not all of it, but there are also those who refuse to admit the earth is round, that it revolves around the sun, and that Neil Armstrong actually walked on the moon.


How about a public service announcement on the radio or TV that promotes consertative use of plastic bags at the store, reuse, and re-cycling at store bins (most stores have them). A minimal cost to government to produce the ad, will raise public awareness, and help to reduce the pervasive perception and reality of government over reach. I think broadcasters are obligated to air a certain number of public service ads.


I work in the auto industry and I don't see many of the things you're discussing being affordable by when you say they'll be affordable. Since you went there, we need to be drilling for oil here, now so we have an intermediate supply while the technologies you speak of improve. The best thing going for things such as plug-in hybrids is rich, influential people are interested in them, which gives a perfect platform to develop technologies that are currently very expensive, though would trickle down in cost as they spread further.

I cannot be any more clear about this point: I want more effecient technologies. And I want them as soon as possible. However, hoping real bad that throwing reckless amounts of money around (seriously? $150 billion?) will make them available and prevolent tomorrow is just silly.

Also, thanks for insinuating I'm a racist blind idiot. I'm wondering why I bothered to respond.


I completely missed that one. Isn't that the way things go in this year's election.... if Obama isn't continually mentioning his race, his supporters are calling you a racist. It's pretty obvious which side of the political spectrum has the racist tendancies.

The village seeks a ban on plastic bags but not cigarettes at restaurants where kids hang out? At least go for something reasonable. Perhaps small animals are more important than children.

I still wonder why Short Pump Mall can ban smoking, but the downtown mall can't. If the downtown mall is really "public" in nature, why can the village elders suck money from restaurants that want to be on the bricks?

This village is so primitive. Hey TJ, can you get your slave to hand me a smoke? Thank ye.

Didn't San Francisco already do this? Or maybe it was Oakland. The East Bay rules!

Yes, the smaller the better when it comes to government, but there are externalities that can only be controlled by a governing body. It is the tragedy of the commons. Everyone feels that their impact isn't significant as compared to...

I dislike big government, too, but the massive trash and pollution has got to stop. Enterprise and free markets or government...both should be trying to address this issue.

So, when's the next Liberatarian meeting?

Jim -

Wasn't referring to you as a racist, but if you interpreted that way I apologize. You did, however, buy into the talking point that Obama wants to wean us off of oil in 4 years, which may make people wonder whether or not you're actually paying attention to this campaign.

You are so off-base about drilling for more oil here. The oil companies already have tens of thousands of acres of offshore drilling rights that they are not using - what makes you think they'll instead use new acreage that the Republicans want made available to them? Do you think the new acreage will be more fertile than the acreage they already have? They won't start drilling on the existing leases, but they WILL hold onto them indefinitely because they know that while they can make a boatload of money from them now, in ten or twenty years they'll make ten boatloads of money from them. The oil companies exist to create equity and dividends for their shareholders, NOT to foster responsible energy policies for America.

All the experts have stated that if we ramped up offshore drilling today the price might drop by less than 10 cents a gallon in 10 years. Increased offshore drilling will do absolutely nothing to give us the "intermediate supply" you speak of. The only people claiming so are Bush and McCain. Even the oil companies know not to advance that talking point.

The current administration has no energy policy other than to defend the oil companies and make Iraq safe for them. McCain's energy policy seeks to maintain the status quo and further fatten oil company coffers by giving them tax breaks to stack upon their record-breaking profits. It's the Republican way - leave it to corporations to police themselves and their industries. If the oil companies say it, it's so. How's that working out, by the way?

That strategy is proven not to work - it's precisely what has gotten us where we are. If we don't approach this problem from a radically different direction, the party's over. The time to act is now, not in the future.

As for throwing around $150 billion, what the hell do you think we've been doing in Iraq? We've been burning cash in Iraq (over $560 billion and growing by over $200,000 per minute), and today we learn that they have an $80 billion surplus - yet WE continue to pay to rebuild the parts of the country we bombed to oblivion. If that doesn't piss you off beyond measure, or at least annoy you, then how can you even blink when somebody wants to invest $150 billion in OUR future? It's certainly possible that if we had started investing that money in our energy future in 2003, we'd be well on our way and probably wouldn't be discussing this topic. But I guess that wouldn't have fit Bush's world view.

Total non sequitor: Did Florida start selecting their governors with a lottery or something? Charlie Crist is being interviewed and he's an amazingly empty suit - a well-tanned empty suit. This guy is a McCain spokesman and on the short list for VP? Is the Republican talent pool actually that shallow now?

quote: "Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, though vexed by Virginia's interpretation of the Dillon Rule, which prevents local governments from doing things not specifically enabled by the state..."

That in itself is a very scary thought.

1) hybrid plug ins will use electricity made from coal or natural gas.

2) a plastic bag in a landfill underground can stay there forever and it hurts no living thing except music lovers liberal little mind.

3)People will use more gas going home to get their canvas bag than they will use makig them.

4) 12 million barrels divided by 400 million americans is.03 barrells perperson per year or less than one gallon of gas per person. When you consider all of the times most lastic bags are reused and thus saving other resources they are obviously a net GAIN to not only the economy but the envrionment also. Plastic does not absorb toxic chemicals and in and of itself does not contaminate soil or water.

5) If you don't like the litter then instead of going to Richmond go to the local judges and ask them to make these petty criminals pick up trash instead of unsupervised probation.

Your understanding of oil leases is a bit limited. And you are a bit off topic here but I hate to see miss information spread.

First, a company may lease property, but never have the funds to properly explore it or drill an exploratory well. Second, after paying for further tests (such as seismic), they often decide the lease isn't worth the high, high costs of drilling after all. Or they may hold onto the lease for years until either higher oil prices or new technology makes it feasible to drill. Third, a company may lease property but drill on another tract (which drains a ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??pool¢Ã¢â??¬ that covers multiple leased tracts), so perhaps they're counting it as ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??not used¢Ã¢â??¬ if no well is sunk on that particular piece of property. Fourth, they may try to drill and be blocked by government bureaucrats, environmental lawsuits, etc.

Finally, not all acres are alike. Some have lots of oil. Others have virtually none. Saying they're not drilling for oil everywhere is like faulting them for not digging a gold mine on every acre.

If we are going to ban something,I much prefer action by Council to ban cel fone use in a moving vehicle.

As cities and states start to ban plastic bags, I know that my Collection of "Reusable Shopping Bags" will be the bearer of good news in the coming "Green" revolution.

The Collection (the World's Largest) and BLOG are the repository of information about "Reusable Shopping Bags" and the phenomena of what is happening right now.

The Collection will be on display in September at the Hickory Corner Library in East Windsor, NJ - the Hamilton Library in October and the Levittown, PA Library in January 2009. Please stop by or have an associate contact me for more information.

You may view the Collection and read comments from industry, consumers and bloggers at:

Glen Daless

The city can ban the use of plastic bags for garbage pickup and for leaf pickup. Just as it has stopped purchasing bottled water for its employees and officials, it can stop distributing rolls of plastic bags for leaf pickup.

Dave--lest you forget, plastic bags are okay in Tibet as well as China.

I would like to see the city council spend more time on infrastructure issues: trees that have grown through power lines, utility maintenance and modernization, power grig issues, things like that. Let's put the "feel good" causes on hold until the big stuff is solved.

make that power GRID

Do plastic bags qualify fo curbside recycling? If yes, just go plastic and recycle, your bags could become your next deck or composite railroad ties that don't put creosote into the environment or cause trees to get cut down like wooden ties.

The CITY already has this issue covered with curbside recycling, its the COUNTY that needs to improve.

CVille Eye........ WTF? The city was providing bottled water for employees? I guess this shouldn't come as any surprise though. Had one department head who scammed the city for anything he could get out of them free. Needing a new pair of fine leather dress gloves, he bought all his employees the same and classified it as part of their work attire. If only people really knew where their tax dollars are really spent!

I agree with Jim . Let's concentrate on the city's infrastructure that has failed to be maintained. Instead of building a huge new dam, new reservoir, and new uphill pipeline that will have a huge carbon footprint, let's maintain the Reservoirs we have and DREDGE and re-use the material for the market, for sand, gravel and even the new airport runway----just think about the savings !!!!
hope everyone blogging will weigh in on this issue and promote a sustainable solution that will likely save $100's of millions of dollars (given the new information on the up-hill pipeline).

Mayor Norris and CPC ruler Jim Berry are, clearly, preparing to oversee a parking deal that will "blow our minds" and drain our wallets. Talk about a monopoly...there are even hints of checking tire pressure, inspecting windshields for proper decal placement, and monitoring emission levels prior to entry at the Water Street Parking Garage gates and at the Water Street lot!

"Free Parking" only exists on a depression-era board game. By the time these land-rich lords finish their dirty work, we might be shellin' some "Bill Clintons" ($3 bills) to park here. It used to be different, with no charge to park on Sunday, or in the evenings. Jim has helped to change all that...paying himself a nice salary, and offering $1/share to buy stock, along the way.

Yippie! Charlottesville's got a brand new (tax) bag...

Yet another great nonissue our grandstanding city council attempts to whip up. For years I have taken my plastic bags to Food Lion where they are taken for recycling. We need to dissolve the city council and simply let UVA's Board of Regents govern this town. We would benefit from saving the money we now waste on "salaries" and let's face it, UVA money swings this town anyway. We would all benefit from having a skilled management team at our helm instead of a bunch of frustrated social workers that are always looking for causes that only cost the rest of us dearly. This town has REAL problems that need fixing and things like TIBET and PLASTIC BAGS are not among them. Every election we get a new crop of dilettantes that are handed to us by the lawyer firms of downtown. Enough already! We can't even elect our own mayor---one is given to us by the bush league Politburo that runs Charlottesville politics. Let's hand the whole mess to UVA since they have the money to do comprehensive planning for the entire area vice "always near the brink of the pit" Charlottesville financial planning.

Goodness. What a reaction to a thought someone had. After looking through the article here and the comments I clicked over to the original piece on the NBC29 site expecting some diatribe on the part of Dave Norris. Instead, there were a few quotes about how plastic bags use a lot of resources and place an avoidable strain on the environment. Then he radically suggested that the city help promote alternatives to plastic bags. There's nothing here to get upset about. Someone had an idea, it happens a lot. Having an idea about one thing doesn't necessarily take time away from ideas about other things.

Also, plastic bags cannot be recycled curbside.

Mr Norris-
Please don't shove this down the throats of the citizens of Charlottesville!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It'll make you look very silly! This is the main reason Why the citizens should vote you out.

Writing from the East Bay, not SF: smoking banned indoors here and lottsa places in the USA, including just about any public place in the STATE of Maryland. But not the downtown Mall in C'ville...hmmm. Could that be because it is OUTSIDE?