GROCERS AGREE TO REDUCE
PLASTIC BAG USE
Newsom, Mirkarimi announce public-private partnership
City now recycles two-thirds of waste
Mayor inks agreement between city and participants, from left,
Karl Schroeder of Safeway; Nia Crowder, president of the San Francisco
Commission on the Environment; Ivy Wan, executive director of
the San Francisco Charity Cultural Services; Stacia Levenfeld,
public affairs officer for Albertsons; and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
By Pat Murphy
November 3, 2005
The city took either a full step or half step toward San Francisco
plastic bag use reduction yesterday, with history yet to validate
perception of either Mayor Newsom or Supervisor Mirkarimi.
Pilgrimage scope aside, both city leaders praised the journey
in a City Hall press conference announcing a public-private agreement
aimed at reducing plastic bags by 10 million through close of
The measure, which also promotes greater customer use of cloth
bags, joins expanding city projects established for the greening
of San Francisco. The city now recycles two-thirds of all waste,
compared to London's track record still "in the teens,"
Newsom pointed out.
Plastic bags take many years to biodegrade, and commonly litter
the streets, clog storm drains, and kill sea life.
"San Francisco is a global recycling leader," stated
"Today our city is taking a historic step to reduce the
use of disposable items such as grocery store bags. This is just
the beginning if we are to
become a truly sustainable city."
Mirkarimi warned against private industry driving reduction goals.
"I think that this is a fine half step in making certain
that this does not become an industry driven remedy," Mirkarimi
"Listen, I really do laud that our government is able to
broker this with the industry unto itself, but I'm cautious, I'm
cautious just like I'm cautious that I think our nation is influenced
by corporations who do not want to participate with enforceable
guidelines in the Kyoto (global warming) or Rio accords,"
stated the District 5 supervisor.
"You can see the spirit of cooperation (laughter),"
"I'm one of those guys that has the same ideals that everyone
else has, but we've got to manifest them, we've got to make them
happen and it's at times a rocky road.
"But this is not an insignificant half step. I wouldn't
use that phrase. I think it's more than a half step as we're the
only city in the United States of America that can lay claim to
having gone as far as we're announcing that we're going,"
added the mayor.
Participating grocers include Albertson's, Andronico's, Bell
Markets, CalMart, Cala Foods, Foods Co., Mollie Stone's and Safeway
stores at 54 locations.
The target reduction of 10 million bags may represent up to twenty
Percent of the total bags distributed in San Francisco on an annual
basis -- the exact figure of bags used annually will be captured
through monitoring by the city.
A reduction of 10 million bags will keep 95 tons of material
plastic out of San Francisco's waste stream, and will reduce San
Francisco's contribution of greenhouse gas emissions by nearly
1 million pounds of CO2. This is equivalent to 44,000 gallons
of oil or taking more than 14,000 automobiles off the road for
The Commission on the Environment first looked at the issue of
checkout bag reduction in San Francisco in late 2004.
Subsequently, Mayor Newsom and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi co-sponsored
a resolution focusing on reduction measures, and have worked together
with industry to craft the voluntary reduction agreement.
The Department of the Environment is charged with ensuring that
Goals of the Agreement are implemented. "We will immediately
work with the grocery stores to determine an accurate baseline
for the number of bags distributed.
"We will then monitor the supermarkets' progress towards
reaching the reduction targets," said Jared Blumenfeld, director
of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.