Bag fee vote postponed after cost raises concerns

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors postponed a vote Tuesday on legislation that would impose a fee on any bags provided by San Francisco businesses.

The fee would cost consumers more than $10 million next year, according to the City Controller’s Office.

The legislation, introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, is meant to change consumer habits by assessing the fee if they are not reusing bags.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said he is concerned about the impact. “I’m very concerned about the impact of 25 cent on paper bags. When you are talking about someone of low-income shopping weekly for a family that can add up,” Wiener told The San Francisco Examiner. “I think 25 cents is too high and it should be lowered.”

Consumers would have to pay a 10-cent fee for every shopping bag provided by grocery stores, restaurants or retail outlets. That amount could increase to 25 cents per bag in July 2014. Businesses would keep the money collected from the fee.

Under the proposal, the city’s plastic bag ban in place for grocery stores and pharmacies would extend to all businesses. They could only supply, for a fee, bags that are certified compostable plastic bags, paper bags with 100 percent recycled content and reusable bags that are designed for at least 125 uses.

Supervisor Jane Kim questioned while the legislation would limit stores to free bag giveaways to seven days.
“I don’t want to discourage stores from giving away bags, particularly in our seniors, immigrant and low-income communities,” Kim said. “So I just question that restriction.”

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the legislation on Dec. 6.

Mirkarimi said in the meantime he plans to work with his colleagues to address the concerns. He said that other cities “took our example and now blown by us with much more vigorous laws whether bans or fee assessments, and those fee assessments actually are minimally 10 cents on average up to 25 cents.”

He said: “It’s good that San Francisco is trying to keep pace with a trend that is happening.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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