Paper could become new plastic

Bringing a reusable bag when shopping at a grocery store or drugstore could soon pay dividends.

First, city officials banned plastic bags at many retail outlets. Now, the law may force businesses to cut customers’ costs — if shoppers supply their own reusable bags to carry their purchases.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced legislation Tuesday that would require supermarkets and drugstores to give customers a 10-cent per bag rebate.

The proposal would apply to the same businesses impacted by The City’s existing ban on plastic bags: large grocery stores and chain pharmacies. The roughly 130 such businesses in San Francisco can only use recyclable paper, compostable plastic or reusable bags.

The plastic bags were blamed for cluttering landfills, littering city streets and contaminating recycling programs.

“We now need to tackle paper bags,” said Mirkarimi, who introduced the existing plastic bag ban.

Consumers need to “feel the incentive to bring their own bags so when the question is offered — paper or plastic? — the answer is ‘neither,’” he said.

A bag rebate is not a new concept and is currently being voluntarily offered by Whole Foods Market, among others.

Mirkarimi said he expected the proposal to be “hotly debated by the industry, who want to protect their interests.” The plastic bag ban was heavily campaigned against by the California Grocers Association.

According to the legislation, the mandate will not result in a loss for businesses.

Recycled paper bags “cost approximately 5 to 7 cents each and in many cases retailers already credit a customer for using the self-supplied bags,” the legislation says. “A retailer should either come out even or actually ahead by offering a 10-cent rebate over the cost of a double-bagged paper bag.”

The rebate is meant to discourage use of the “wrong kind of bags,” Mirkarimi said.

More people using reusable, environmentally conscious bags — commonly made of hemp or cotton — would also help the Earth by cutting down on the “pollution and resource consumption” associated with other types of bags, according to the legislation.

Violators would face penalties of up to $500.

The legislation, which requires approval by the Board of Supervisors, could go into effect by early next year.

Mandating environmentally conscious practices

  • In November 2006, restaurants were barred from serving food or drinks out of noncompostable and nonrecyclable plastic, such as Styrofoam
  • A December 2007 law prohibits chain pharmacies and large supermarkets from distributing plastic checkout bags
  • Legislation passed in 2008 requires all new commercial buildings of more than 5,000 square feet, residential buildings more than 75-feet tall and renovations on buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to be certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards created by the U.S. Green Building Council
  • A 20-cent surcharge tacked on to the price of a pack of cigarettes that went into effect last month is intended to pay for cleaning up discarded cigarette butts on streets and in gutters
  • Earlier this month the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a green-loan program to help property owners pay for environmentally conscious upgrades to their buildings; the goal is to help reduce carbon emissions
  • Starting Wednesday, residents are required to sort trash, separating composting, recycling and all other garbage; composting is mandatory

    Source: San Francisco

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

 

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