When San Francisco banned plastic grocery bags in 2007, the city nearly tore its rotator cuff patting itself on the back with gusto. Today, however, marks the first day that the city has enacted a grocery bag measure that will actually do what the '07 ban was ostensibly meant to do: help the environment and reduce bag consumption.
You didn't miss the parade. There wasn't one. It says a bit about San Francisco that we were thrilled to be first to enact publicity-generating, feel-good legislation of dubious effectiveness or scientific merit, but no one really seems to much care about finally getting around to adopting a real and meaningful policy.
Well, at least we've done it. As SF Weekly noted in a cover story and subsequent coverage, the only way other cities and countries have sacked runaway bag use was by crafting legislation that looks a lot like San Francisco's new status quo.
See also: The city's politicos made the enviros happy by banning plastic bags, but left us with more pollution and cost
Can San Francisco Finally Get a Bag Ban Right?
If you can remember back to the primordial days of 2007, the initial plastic bag ban was just that -- a ban solely on plastic grocery bags. It only applied to stores grossing more than $2 million yearly, so plastic bags still blew around vast swaths of the city. And it automatically shunted consumers to paper bags, which are arguably just as environmentally destructive as plastic sacks.
Over the years, San Francisco has honed its bag policy to make it more and more like the sound actions other cities undertook first. It has been extended to more stores and more types of bags. And, finally, the ordinance taking effect today bans the use of plastic bags, and places a 10-cent fee on the use of paper or compostable ones, to be collected by the merchant.
Knee-jerk troglodytes of the sort populating vast swaths of the web will certainly grumble about San Francisco's "nanny state" policies. But the term is ill-applied in this case; bag consumption is not an individual but societal problem. Also, San Francisco is only now adopting the none-too-flashy but rather sensible rules other, more politically conservative burgs have had in place for years. No one is entitled to a free bag. And those bitching about the cost can keep their bags and reuse them. Hey, they're free the second time.
Former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi all along acknowledged to SF Weekly that his splashy bag ban was incomplete. He vowed to enact more substantive legislation. And, to his credit, he did. Whatever the sheriff-in-limbo's other problems -- and he has many to sift through -- he did his part here. Give that man a free bag.
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