Be gone with thee, plastic bags!
An ordinance banning plastic bags from large supermarkets in San
goes into effect Tuesday. The legislation, sponsored by Supervisor
aims to reduce landfill waste and promote the use of recyclable
and reusable grocery bags.
Photos by Luke
By Ashley Wright
November 19, 2007
San Francisco has again taken the environmental forefront with
its newly imposed ban on plastic bags made from petroleum-based
The city ordinance, a first for any U.S. city, bans plastic bags
that cannot be composted for large grocery stores and pharmacies
that gross more than $2 million annually, said Deanna Simon of
the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
The ban will take effect Tuesday.
Passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the ordinance
is a reaction to 180 million plastic bags used in the city each
year, Simon said.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi authored the bill.
Ross Mirkarimi's plastic bag ban garners worldwide attention
during a live BBC World Service interview.
The ordinance requires that grocers and pharmacies offer only
bags made from corn or potato starch or paper bags of high percentage
post consumer materials.
Stores will also be required to offer reusable bags made of canvas
or other such materials for sale, according to Simon.
The compost-friendly plastic bags will be clearly marked and
can be put in the green compost carts in individuals' residences,
Recycled paper bags go in blue garbage carts, she added.
The goal of the ordinance is to lower the cost of compost-friendly
plastic bags by increasing demand and to encourage consumers to
bring reusable bags when shopping.
San Francisco stores affected by the ordinance include Whole
Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Albertsons, Safeway, Rite Aid Pharmacy
and Walgreens, said Simon.
Retail stores and small grocers are not included in the ordinance,
She said stores affected by the new law have been compliant.
The department does not expect a need for fines for violating
the ordinance, which would be $100 for the first offense, $200
for the second and $500 each time thereafter. However, fine enforcement
will begin Dec. 1 for noncompliant stores.
"The department has been working closely with the Grocers
Association over the past two years," Simon said. "They
really want to be green. They know their customers want them to
be green. We don't expect there will be any fines. At this point
they see the value and they really want to comply."
Dave Heylen, spokesperson for the California Grocers Association,
said the association originally believed the city ordinance wasn't
necessarily more effective than a recently passed state law addressing
"The grocer industry believed at the time that a more effective
route to go was a law passed and signed by the governor late last
year that went into effect July 1," he said. "[The law]
calls for any grocer with more than $2 million in sales and provides
plastic bags to their customers to provide some way for their
customers to recycle the bags."
Heylen said the recycling bins in front of large grocery stores
are a better way to address environmental concerns.
Even so, Heylen said all grocer association members are prepared
to comply with the new city ordinance.
"Most of our members have indicated that they will just
provide for their customers the recyclable paper bags and also
have the reusable bags for sale," he said.
Compost-friendly plastic bags can be expensive and confusing
for consumers, he said.
"If there are stores that choose to use the compostable
plastic bags, we think that there will be confusion because they
can't be put into the same recycling bins [as recyclable paper
bags]," Heylen said.
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