The city of Palo Alto joins fellow Bay Area cities of San Francisco and Oakland in an effort to go green, banning the use of plastic bags in all seven of its large grocery stores.

The ban eliminates the use of single-use plastic bags at check out lanes in all seven of the city’s large grocery stores.

Manager of Environmental Compliance, Bill Bobel, stated, “To put it in context, we are noticing plastic in general is showing up in creeks and oceans, and harming wildlife.”

Bobel claimed Palo Alto will also be putting an ordinance into effect that will eliminate the use of polystyrene food packaging products in all food service establishments beginning on Earth Day, 2010.

PublicCEO covered the ban of polystyrene products in food packaging earlier in August.

One goal of the ban is to persuade shoppers to purchase reusable bags and eliminate the need for paper bags as well.

Three of the seven large grocery stores in Palo Alto made the decision to eliminate plastic bags at checkout counters several months ago, Bobel stated.

In early 2010, the city will conduct a survey asking customers to express their feelings on the absence of plastic in stores.

As far as current reaction, “So far so good. The proof will come with the customer surveys,” Bobel said.

The general consensus of the city council is to eventually look at all stores, large and small, and eliminate plastic bags in all aspects of the store.

Bobel stated that although large cities like San Francisco and Oakland have similar bans, most of California has not gotten on board.

He said local governments must begin to look at other ways plastic gets into the environment.

Palo Alto is looking to go beyond the ban with public works campaigns and regulatory actions.

“The next step is to consider expanding the restriction,” Bobel said.

Louis Dettorre can be reached at