In late 2007, San Francisco passed one of the nation’s first laws discouraging the use of single use plastic shopping bags. The ordinance prohibited grocery stores and chain pharmacies with over $2 million in gross annual sales from distributing plastic checkout bags.
Reuseable bags, BPI certified compostable bags, and paper bags made with a minimum 40 percent post consumer recycled content were offered as environmentally-friendly alternatives. Two years after San Francisco banned the bags, plastic bag litter in the city decreased by 18 percent.
But now, some are seeking an extension of the original ban that would discourage paper bag use as well.
On December 6, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors will hear a proposal to expand the current plastic bag ban. Under the new ordinance, plastic bags would be banned at all retail locations regardless of size or revenue. Additionally, the new ordinance would place a 10 cent charge on recycled-content paper bags, and require that reusable bags for sale cost at least 10 cents (to curb the distribution of thicker-but-still-single-use plastic bags).
Mayor Lee recently voiced support for the new measure, saying he checked with his experts on the environmental impact and decided the charge is necessary to affect significant behavior change. Local environmental advocates agree:
“It is important to include a fee on paper bags because it encourages the public to use reusable bags,” said Carolynn Box, a campaign organizer for Surfrider.org. “The expansion is bringing the current SF bag ban up to speed with other cities.” According to Surfider, which supports the ban expansion, similar legislation in DC achieved an 80 percent reduction in the distribution of single-use bags.
The revenue from the proposed $.10 fee will go directly to the retailer or restaurant to cover the costs of offering paper bags.
Those who live in San Francisco are asked to send emails directly to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors via the Surfrider Action Alert.
Image Credit: Flickr – slightlyeverything