Expanded San Francisco bag ban would also involve fees

Word of advice to the future shoppers of San Francisco: Bring your own bag — and not just for groceries. Under new proposed legislation, all bags from all retail operations in The City would cost an extra dime each, and 25 cents by mid-2014. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the legislation’s sponsor, wants all stores to fall in line with the existing ban on noncompostable plastic bags, currently applied only to big grocery stores and chain pharmacies.

Mirkarimi floated the idea in November 2010, but the legislation didn’t budge because of trepidation over lawsuits against other California cities looking to regulate the bags without first completing a complicated and expensive environmental impact report. Municipalities became interested in regulations again in July, after a state Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of Manhattan Beach in a lawsuit brought by a plastic bag advocacy group opposing the Southern California city’s ban.

While small business leaders tend to agree on the benefits of using recyclable and compostable materials for bags, charging more for them isn’t as popular.

“Here we are in a recession, and everybody just feels like here is another unnecessary burden,” said Steve Adams, president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro.

Others felt San Francisco retailers would have a mixed reaction — with some worried about losing customers and others welcoming the extra revenue from bags. The California Grocers Association — with membership that would likely stand to benefit most from new revenue — is supporting Mirkarimi’s renewed push for fees and wants to encourage “additional reusable bag use,” according to a statement Friday.

Rob Black, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said he is seeking more clarity on the legislation, but doesn’t believe it would apply to bags for damp or hot food.

“How it impacts the restaurant community is not yet clear to me,” Black said, adding that reusable cloth bags are not ideal for take-out food because of sanitation issues.

In a statement, Mirkarimi said the legislation reduces the burden of plastic bags on landfills and the Bay Area’s marine environment while providing revenue for businesses to recoup the cost of more expensive materials. The supervisor mentioned Ireland’s similar effort nearly a decade ago to charge for plastic bags, which resulted in a 90 percent reduction in use — a figure often touted by Irish environmental officials.

If passed, the law would bring San Francisco’s policy in line with that of San Jose, which approved similar regulations in 2010 that are set to take effect Jan. 1.

Bag ban timeline

July 1, 2012: Recyclable paper bags to cost 10 cents each
July 1, 2013: Compostable plastic bags to cost 10 cents each
July 1, 2014: All bags to cost 25 cents each


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