San Francisco May Expand Bag Ban To Include Paper

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 “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.

Related Reading:

Plastic Bags Outlawed In Santa Monica

All It Takes Is A Nickel: Plastic Bags And Earth Week

Is The Plastic Industry The New Tobacco Industry?

Image Credit: Flickr – slightlyeverything


Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado5 years ago

Some are starting to use paper bags instead of plastic bags.

Susan O.
Susan O6 years ago

Great idea ... now, how do the environmentalists propose that people pick up doggie-doodie after walking their doggies? Or, where do they think we should dispose of the used cat litter after scooping the box? I suppose they expect us to use our hands and bras ... ooops, strike that, reverse it ... no one wears bras in San Francisco anymore, not even the trans folks :=))

Monica S.
M. C6 years ago

2/3 of California has it right, just need to get the lower portion of California to get with the Program !

Jennifer M.
Jennifer M6 years ago

Paper is a teeny tiny bit better, but still absolutely terrible for the planet. I agree that charging for bags is a great idea though. I bought a set of EnviroBags recently. They are so awesome! 5 of them fold right up and fit into a little pouch that goes right in my purse so I never forget them. And they hold 44lbs. I absolutely love them and will be purchasing more (:

Michael W.
Michael W6 years ago

I totally support limiting plastic bags but I see no problem with paper, except maybe upping the recycled content percentage. I use paper bags to collect my recyclables because i have to carry them pretty far to the dumpster. That way they get recycled and reused at least once.

LAV M6 years ago

Mexico City put a ban on handing out plastic bags a year ago. Unfortunately most shops simply put up signs saying they do not distribute bags for free, the cost is included in the price of articles bought... So frustrating!

Monica D.
Monica D6 years ago

Only an 18% reduction in plastic bags? Perhaps a fee should be imposed on those plastic bags still being given away.

John Reinfort
John R6 years ago

I would hope it catches on up here, but i have a real issue with advertising flyers. On Wednesdays, the bundle is bigger than the week-end newspaper!!

Dave C.
David C6 years ago

always wonder if plastic bags are so great why they get quickly thrown away....often in our lakes, rivers, etc....I try to collect and recycle as many as I can (never use them myself) and its amazing how many I pull out of trash cans at work......

glad to see San Fran making the effort to do whats right for the world, for today and tomorrow....

Juan P.
Juan P6 years ago

Great comments by everyone, from the mention of the north american gyre to the fact that it can cause harm even to plankton, should be enough info to go forward with a national ban, if not, then certainly charging for them will cut down use, but not just .10 each should be more like a dollar each for paper or plastic in the mean time. The burden on the poor can be addressed in the legislation by presenting food stamps for your purchase etc. Also I am sure someone can create a machine to accept the plastic bags for a return of deposit like the bottle companies did in the past, although they are probably good for nothing at this point, they can be contained until we have the technology to recycle or dispose of them safely.