Official wants patrons to keep using same bag

Not to be outdone by Los Angeles, San Francisco might impose a 10-cent “checkout bag charge” on paper and reusable grocery bags.

San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags in 2007. Supermarkets with sales of more than $2 million and pharmacy chains are the only stores affected by the ordinance.

It has since been replicated in a handful of California cities. However, last week

 

Los Angeles County passed a law that requires a 10-cent surcharge for paper bags, and San Jose is currently considering a similar charge.

According to legislation introduced at the Board of Supervisors by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi last week, city customers will have to pay at least 10 cents for each recyclable paper bag or reusable bag beginning July 1. By 2013, compostable plastic bags will be included. And the legislation would extend the plastic bag ban to all retail stores in The City.

The law is meant to change the behavior of consumers, according to Mirkarimi. While many shoppers already bring their own bags to the grocery store, a majority still takes for granted that free bags are regularly available at the checkout counter, Mirkarimi said.

“I don’t think anyone should have to pay,” he said. “It should get people into the practice of using great reusable bags.”

In September, California lawmakers rejected a bill seeking to ban plastic shopping bags statewide. The proposal drew contentious debate about whether the state was going too far in trying to regulate personal choice.

The legislation is sure to face plenty of criticism. The American Chemistry Council spent millions to defeat the statewide ban and organized small grocers across California to join the opposition.

Last week, the group said the Los Angeles surcharge will unnecessarily raise grocery costs, hurt workers and small businesses, and fail to earmark one penny for environmental-improvement programs.  

“It’s extremely disappointing that the Board of Supervisors would take this approach, which threatens to derail existing recycling programs and fleeces consumers,” Tim Shestek, senior director of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement regarding the Los Angeles surcharge.

At the same time, bag surcharges have found support in other places. The California Grocers Association has been supportive of the fees when the proceeds go to individual stores.

“The ordinance encourages retailers and consumers to adopt the best environmental choice — reusable bags,” association spokesman Dave Heylen said. “The grocery industry welcomes the opportunity to work with Supervisor Mirkarimi to transition toward reusable bag use.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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