San Francisco Supes Approve Shopping Bag Fee, Expand Plastic Bag Ban

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A proposal to institute a fee for each paper bag provided at a store in San Francisco and also expand the city’s ban on plastic bags was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Starting this October, the legislation will institute a 10-cent fee for each bag provided by any retail establishment to customers. Restaurants will also be required to charge the fee starting in October 2013.

The city’s 2007 ban on supermarkets and chain store pharmacies providing single-use, non-compostable plastic bags will expand to include all retail stores in October, then restaurants the following year.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

The businesses charging the fee will keep the money to use how they see fit, and the plastic bag ban will include certain exemptions, such as “doggy bags” used to take home leftover food from restaurants.

Before supervisors voted on the ordinance, board president David Chiu introduced an amendment to provide additional exemptions that will allow the use of plastic bags for various delicate or heavy items, and another to require further outreach by the city’s Department of the Environment.

“All of us have heard that we still have to do more” to educate residents and merchants about the new law, Chiu said.

Department of the Environment director Melanie Nutter said her department had reached 23 different neighborhood and merchant groups to talk about the legislation and has outreach workers that speak several different languages.

Nutter said the department has also set aside money and is working with corporate partners to provide a reusable bag giveaway in the city.

“We’re poised and ready as a department … for the next seven months” when the law will go into effect, she said.

Supervisor Carmen Chu said she is aware that there are many people who see San Francisco as a city that “nickels and dimes every single thing” and that a lack of outreach could create “a lot of confusion and bad feelings.”

The vote on the proposal had been delayed for two months while more outreach was done.

During that time, the legislation’s author, then-Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi—who also authored the 2007 law—was sworn in as the city’s new sheriff and Christina Olague was appointed as his replacement.

Olague took over as a sponsor of the ordinance and expressed support of it before the vote.

“The only effective way to change the behavior of most customers is to institute a charge,” she said, adding that the law will cut down on both private and public costs of disposing of bags and is “a crucial next step” toward the city’s zero waste goal by 2020.

The board voted 10-0 in favor of the proposal. Supervisor David Campos missed Tuesday’s meeting due to an illness.

The ordinance will return in front of the board next week for final approval and then go to the mayor’s desk for signature.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

More from Barbara Taylor
  • Mark

    1. Why do politicians always condescendingly, like the bullies they are, think it is their business to “change the behavior of most customers.” I already use as little packaging and other unnecessary materials as I can. This new prohibition will only cause me inconvenience, greater expense, and, once again, less freedom.

    2. The one thing the plastic bags were useful for is trash. I’d be happy to dump loose trash into the bin, but Recology insists it must be bagged. I live alone in a small apartment, and therefore have a small trash can. Even if I wanted to have a big one, I’d fill it so slowly that it would stink to high heaven. So now I will have to BUY trash bags too BIG for my trash can, and throw them out when only a fraction of each one is filled?! Apart from causing me a new expense, how is that going to help the environment? I can’t use paper bags, because they will LEAK!

    3. People complain about corporations, but whatever their faults, a corporation never forced me to do anything. On the other hand, government–federal, state, and local–constantly interferes with my life. For my own good, OF COURSE.

    4. As a result of this law, the Supervisor for my district, and the mayor, will not ever again get my vote.

  • Billy

    DAVID CAMPOS must be voted out of district 9!

  • what a joke

    That’s a good idea! Make it a little more expensive to shop and live in SF. I’m sure the retailers appreciate this little windfall from our esteemed BOS to “use as they see fit”. Do our elected representatives really think bags, paper or plastic, have been a free gift from merchants? Pretty sure merchants have been building the cost of bags into their pricing all along! Thanks BOS; I REALLY appreciate your help!

  • s.f. peaches

    I got into the habit of taking my own bags to the store several years ago. It’s easy now.

    Someday we’ll look back on this controversy and try to remember why it was such a big deal. Seriously, after you get into the habit of doing something, the perspective changes greatly.

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