Plastic bags on their way out of The City

Love them or hate them, plastic bags are nearing extinction in San Francisco.

In November, San Francisco became the first major city in the country to ban grocery stores from using plastic bags. The ban will extend to The City’s chain drug stores, such as Walgreens and Rite Aid, on May 20.

Rite Aid has already made the switch from plastic to paper.

“It was an increased cost for Rite Aid and we had to make modifications to our registers to be able to stack paper bags instead of hang plastic bags,” Rite Aid spokeswoman Cheryl Slavinsky said. “But it is the best thing for the environment and Rite Aid is happy to comply.”

Interviews with shoppers reveal mixed feelings about the ban: Some say they miss the plastic bags, some are glad to see them go and others want to push the ban further so The City is only using cloth bags.

“You don’t really know what really helps and what really doesn’t help the environment anymore,” said Lameisha Karriem. “It sucks if it rains though, especially if when you are on public transportation. You need something a little bit more sturdy.”

Walgreens shopper Amber Kostik said while she walked out of the store with her purchases in a plastic bag, she wouldn’t mind if the store used paper bags.

Other San Franciscans say both disposable options are bad.

“I would not rather have plastic than paper,” said Walgreens shopper Nancy Swanson. “But I would rather have those cloth bags … I think you should get a discount if you brought a canvas bag.”

The author of the San Francisco law, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, said although he used to use the plastic bags to pick up after his dog, the inconveniences have been outbalanced by the “greater good.”

Prior to the ban, city officials estimated that 180 million plastic bags are used annually, and blamed them for littering the streets, clogging storm drains, harming wildlife and jamming recycling machines.

Mirkarimi said he is considering legislation that would broaden the ban to other businesses as well as create a rebate program where shoppers would have a few cents taken off their tab if they used their own bags.

A plastic bag ban that was scheduled to start in Oakland in January is currently facing a legal challenge. This month, city leaders in San Jose said they are considering a plastic bag ban.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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