Plastic bags banned from all SF stores

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Images like this one, a sea turtle eating a plastic bag, have fueled environmental efforts to ban the bag

The Board of Supervisors voted to expand a 2007 ban on plastic checkout bags to cover all retail and food establishments.

The law bans all businesses from providing plastic bags to customers. It also requires a ten cent fee for paper bags, to be pocketed by the store. With the ban, only paper bags, compostable bags, and reusable bags will be permitted at checkout. The city hopes to encourage shoppers to carry reusable bags.

Supervisors acknowledged that this ordinance could create confusion and inconvenience for business owners.

Many supervisors, notably Chiu and Weiner, emphasized that in the past few months they had done outreach in their districts, explaining the bill at open forums and neighborhood association meetings, and getting community feedback.

Two amendments-- an exemption of certain items, such as fresh flowers, bulk candy and loose nails, and a cap of the paper bag cost at ten cents- -were the were results of community feedback.

With the amendments, the ban passed unanimously, with ten votes (Supervisor David Campos was ill and not in attendane.)

Melanie Nutter, Director of the city’s Department of the Environment, helped lead the outreach efforts.

“I am pleased. The legislation being considered today will encourage customers to reuse their bags. This will dramatically reduce the impact of hundreds of millions of disposable bags currently in use in our city. These bags end up on our streets, in our bay and oceans, and in landfills,” said Nutter.

The most notorious effect of plastic pollution on the Pacific Coast is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a floating conglomeration of trash that has been known to kill marine life and has been a target of environmental concern.

The ban will take effect Oct. 1.

Nutter said that the city is looking into a bag giveaway program to ease access to reusable and compostable bags for consumers and businesses. She added that, for businesses that are not able to use up their inventory of plastic bags by Oct. 1, some exemptions to the implementation date may be made.

Original legislation to ban plastic bags from grocery stores and chain pharmacies passed in 2007.  Since, several California cities have followed suit, including Malibu, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, San Jose and Long Beach.

“Now, it’s time for San Francisco to catch up and continue to show environmental leadership,” said Supervisor Christina Olague.

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