San Francisco News

Expanded ban on plastic bags, new fee in effect

Monday, October 01, 2012
Plastic bags

Starting Monday, plastic bags are banned in retail stores in San Francisco, and consumers who want to carry out their purchases in paper bags will have to pay 10 cents per bag.

A new ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors in February that takes effect today prohibits giving single-use, non-compostable plastic bags to customers in retail stores, expanding a 2007 law that bans supermarkets and chain-store pharmacies from providing such bags.

Restaurants will be included in the ordinance starting in October 2013.

Along with expanding the plastic bag ban, customers will now be charged a minimum of 10 cents for each paper bag provided to them. The fee will be kept the businesses to offset the cost of the bags, city officials said.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment has spent the past several months working with the 9,000-plus businesses in the city that will be affected by the ordinance, including doing door-to-door outreach and connecting businesses to bag manufacturers.

The department is also reaching out to consumers by hosting 50 reusable bag giveaway events over the next two months.

The ordinance marks "a huge step forward in reducing our use of single-use bags" and helps to "rid our environment from costly and harmful plastic bags," said Melanie Nutter, director of the Department of the Environment.

"We're hoping that this will go smoothly," said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of public policy for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. "People have had a heads-up for many, many months."

Lazarus said the key for businesses will be educating consumers, "especially people visiting from outside San Francisco who may not have such a ban."

He said, "Hopefully people are aware and will bring reusable bags."

Opponents of the ordinance, represented by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, filed a lawsuit earlier this year seeking to halt implementation of the law, arguing that the city had not adequately studied the environmental impacts of the legislation.

However, a San Francisco Superior Court judge last month ruled that the ordinance was valid, allowing it to go into effect today. San Francisco joins 49 other cities and counties in California that have enacted similar laws, according to the Department of the Environment.

More information about the ordinance, as well as signs that companies can print out for use at their stores, can be found at the department's website at

www.sfenvironment.org/article/prevent-waste/checkout-bag-ordinance.

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