Plastic bag ban just part of S.F. green wave

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San Francisco could become the nation’s first city to ban the use of plastic checkout bags by large grocery stores and chain stores with pharmacies, in the latest of several recent City Hall moves aimed at protecting the environment.

The proposed legislation that would ban plastic checkout bags comes among a host of other initiatives, including an easier permitting process to install solar panels, a proposed ban on toxic children’s toys, and a ban on Styrofoam and other polystyrene foam.

The plastic bag ban, which saw some amendments finalized by the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee on Thursday, would require The City’s estimated 54 large grocery stores to use only recyclable paper or compostable plastic bags within six months of the legislation’s adoption. Retail stores with pharmacies that have at least five locations in The City would have one year to comply.

Plastic bags clutter landfills, litter city streets and contaminate The City’s recycling programs, environmentalists and supporters of the legislation say. The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Tuesday on the ban.

“I’d like to believe that this is a trend in the direction of making sure that a smart, forward-thinkingeconomy is one that understands its relationship with our environment,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who drafted the plastic bag legislation.

The California Grocers Association has opposed the legislation, arguing that a switch to compostable bags would confuse consumers, who would end up mixing the biodegradable bags in with regular plastics in recycling bins, which would hamper recycling efforts. The association advocates an increased effort to recycle and reduce the use of plastic bags citywide.

Meanwhile, children’s toys that contain the toxic additive phthalates may also wind up being banned in San Francisco, under legislation drafted by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on that legislation in two weeks.

These bans would come in the wake of a recent board-approved prohibition on the use of Styrofoam and other brands of polystyrene foam by restaurants and city departments.

This week, The City continued efforts to improve air quality with the Board of Supervisors’ passage of the Clean Construction Ordinance, which requires city contractors to use vehicles that run on biodesiel fuel and have tough emission controls. The ordinance would go into effect 24 months from final adoption.

In addition, Mayor Gavin Newsom called on the Taxicab Commission in his October 2006 State of the City Address to ensure that the entire taxi fleet would include only hybrid, alternative-fuel or other green vehicles by 2011.

Working with Mayor Gavin Newsom, Mirkarimi and Supervisor Tom Ammiano are expected to introduce legislation in the next several weeks that would kick off the process for implementing the so-called Community Choice Aggregation program that would provide local energy customers with a choice between purchasing city-generated electricity, which would be produced primarily through environmentally friendly sources, or energy from private companies.

“I think San Francisco is doing, across the board, some very exciting lawmaking as it relates to our economic environmental principles,” Mirkarimi said.

Environment-friendly legislation

PLASTIC BAG REDUCTION ORDINANCE

Who introduced it? Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi

What would it do? Ban the use of plastic bags by large grocery chains and retail stores with pharmacies that have more than five locations in San Francisco. Would require the use of recyclable paper or compostable plastic bags.

When would it take effect? Six months after adoption for grocery stores, and one year after adoption for retail stores with pharmacies

HEALTHY PRODUCTS, HEALTHY CHILDREN ORDINANCE

Who introduced it? Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier

What would it do? Ban toys, child care products, and child feeding products made with the toxic additive known as phthalates

When would it take effect? Eighteen months from adoption

FOOD SERVICE WASTE REDUCTION ORDINANCE

Who introduced it? Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin

What would it do? Ban the use of Styrofoam and other brands of polystyrene foam by restaurants and city departments.

When does it take effect? June 1

jsabatini@examiner.com

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