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Friday, July 15, 2011

Supreme Court Ruling Could Encourage More Extensive Plastic Bag Ban in S.F.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 3:50 PM

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There are many things to be proud of when you live in San Francisco. Besides being skinnier than the rest of America -- though unfortunately less stylish -- we were the first city to ban single-use plastic bags. (Never mind that the plastic bag ban doesn't actually help the environment. It still makes us feel good about ourselves.)

But Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has been wanting to take his plastic bag ban even farther, pushing to expand the scope of the ban beyond large grocery chains, and also to place a fee on paper bags. So far, he has gotten nowhere with his additional plans, putting us behind San Jose -- and you know how we feel about that. 

But perhaps Mirkarimi may have gotten a boost after the California State Supreme Court today upheld a Manhattan Beach city ordinance to ban the use of plastic bags.

The San Francisco ordinance was originally adopted in 2008, but was challenged by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a group of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors. They claimed that the ban would drive an increase in paper bag consumption, which they argued were more detrimental to the environment than their plastic counterparts. Both the Trial Court and the Court of Appeals found that the city should have considered these issues in an environmental study.

However, the Supreme Court upheld the ban, with Justice Carol Corrigan stating, "Substantial evidence and common sense support the city's determination that its ordinance [to ban plastic bags] would have no significant environmental effect."

SF Weekly called Mirkarimi's office to see whether this ruling opens any new doors for San Francisco to expand its current ban, but his office declined to comment until attorneys finish interpreting the ruling and how it might affect San Francisco.

Mark Westlund, communications manager of the S.F. Department of Environment, also tiptoed around making any sweeping comment. "We are digesting what the implications are and figuring out how we can move ahead," he told SF Weekly.

In the meantime, it's time to start stockpiling our still-free paper bags.

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Caroline Chen

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