msnbc.com
updated 12/15/2010 5:27:17 AM ET 2010-12-15T10:27:17

San Jose is to become the largest city in the U.S. to ban plastic carry-out bags, according to a report.

The city council voted 10-1 to introduce the ban on Jan. 1, 2012, in the hope of encouraging customers to bring their own bags, The San Jose Mercury News said.

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The newspaper said the ordinance would outlaw disposable plastic bags being given out at checkouts. Paper bags will be available, but only with a charge. San Jose has a population of more than a million people.

"This is a great step," Councilman Sam Liccardo told the Mercury News. "It's an opportunity to lead on an important environmental issue."

But Councilman Pete Constant, who voted against the ban, told the paper that the city had voted to increase "the burden and cost for people in the midst of one of the deepest recessions we've experienced in our lifetime."

Restaurants and nonprofit, secondhand stores were exempted from the ban. Plastic bags can also be used to protect meat, produce or bulk foods. Sandwich bags and trash bags are also unaffected, the Mercury News said.

'Great step forward'
Fines of up to $1,000 can be imposed on shops which break the ban.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that scores of U.S. cities, including San Francisco and Washington, had restricted plastic bag use.

It described the San Jose ban as the strictest in California.

The paper said about 5,000 businesses would be affected, citing studies by the city.

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"This ordinance is a great step forward and will keep millions of bags out of San Francisco Bay," Emily Utter, policy associate with Save the Bay, told the Chronicle. "We're really excited that other cities — and California — will follow suit."

However, Tim Shestek, the American Chemistry Council's senior director for state affairs, said the ban was "unfortunate," according to the paper.

"Plastic bags are fully recyclable, and instead of entertaining recycling partnerships and programs, the City Council chose a policy that punishes consumers by raising grocery costs unnecessarily," he added.

The Chronicle said cities including Long Beach, Santa Monica and Santa Cruz were considering laws to restrict plastic bag use.

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