San Francisco shoppers can add bag fee to bills 

Shoppers will have to start bringing their own bags if they want to avoid a new fee.

San Francisco on Tuesday became the latest California city to impose a fee on bags provided to customers, 10 cents a tote, as part of a growing effort to change consumer habits by hitting them in their wallets.

The new rules will take effect Oct. 1. Single-use plastic bags will be banned, and only three kinds -- recycled paper, compostable plastic and reusable – will be allowed. Merchants will be able to keep the revenue from the bag fee.

The aim of the new rules is to have shoppers bring reusable bags to reduce environmental impacts and litter.

The proposal had faced delays, most recently in December when the Board of Supervisors expressed concerns that merchants weren’t consulted enough. But on Tuesday, it was approved in a 10-0 vote after amendments were made, including requiring aggressive outreach. Supervisor David Campos was excused for the vote because he was unable to attend the meeting.

The Department of the Environment will conduct an extensive multilingual outreach campaign to merchants and consumers during the next seven months, Director Melanie Nutter said. Nutter said the law will “benefit the environment as well as to help stimulate new sustainable markets.”

There was resistance to the proposal, something Supervisor Carmen Chu grappled with.

“Oftentimes in San Francisco, we want to legislate a lot of different social goods,” Chu said. She also said there is a “prevailing feeling” that The City “nickel and dimes every single thing.”

But in the end, she said she supported the new rules because the modest fee will “create a behavior change.”

Mayor Ed Lee has said he supports the legislation.

In 2007, San Francisco was the first city in the nation to ban the use of plastic bags in large grocery stores and pharmacies. Other cities soon followed suit, with some adding fees.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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