PALM DESERT, Calif. -

The Palm Desert city council approved a $58,000 reusable bag program to help decrease the use of plastic bags and get a jump start on any state legislation.  The discussion of banning plastic bags has been held for quite some time at the local level.  "Not only in California, it should be all over the country," said Lester Weinstine, a Palm Desert resident.  "I think it's very important, it saves the environment." 

While governments at the state level work on legislation to ban plastic bags altogether, the city of Palm Desert took its own initiative.  The council approved a new program to buy thousands of reusable bags and give them out to residents. "There are 90 cities in the state of California that have gone to the no bag, no plastic bag, reusable," said Mayor Van Tanner.  "We just need to be on the cutting edge before California does it." 

The program costs $58,000, most of it coming from money the city receives from Burrtec waste management for recycling fees.  But, part of it will come out of the city's general fund.  Some think the money could be better spent.   "I hate to see an expenditure of $58,000," said Dick Shelley, a Palm Desert resident.  " I don't have an alternative recommendation for how to do it, but that one seems a little extreme to me." 

The program received on dissenting vote from councilman Robert Spiegel.  He told us by phone, he's concerned with studies of food contamination from the reusable bags.  Mayor Tanner says that's why it's more than just a bag giveaway, it's an educational program.  "We're willing to do it, and put some money into it and make sure everyone understand why we're doing away with plastic bags," said Tanner. 

Like anything, some say it's just going to take some getting used to. "I think it'll grow on people, if we get a plan going and people will adjust," said Shelley.

Mayor Tanner says they plan roll out the bag giveaways on April 1 at stores, apartment complexes and city hall.  He also said the city plans to hold symposiums and lectures to educate people about the bags as well as the problem with using plastic bags.