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Friday, September 3, 2010

State Plastic Bag Ban Fails -- So S.F. Ban May Get Tougher

Posted By on Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge reusable_bag.jpg
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is able to find a silver lining -- even in a plastic bag. He was surprised and upset to learn that AB 1998 -- a state bill that would have banned single-use plastic grocery bags and put a nickel fee on paper ones -- failed this week.

But that means that legislation he's introduced to tighten up San Francisco's existing bag ban -- which could have been preempted by a statewide ban -- is in the clear. Without worrying about being overridden by AB 1998, Mirkarimi tells SF Weekly he may move to make the city's ban even tougher.

Back in 2007, the city banned the use of plastic bags in large grocery stores -- and, later, drug stores. While hailed worldwide as a green miracle, the ban  has been scientifically dubious and questionably effective.


Last month, however, Mirkarimi introduced legislation that would go a long way toward getting a bag ban right -- if the agreed-upon goal is to reduce consumption of single-use bags. Rather than just ban plastic bags in large stores -- and allow mom 'n' pop shops to hand them out to their heart's content -- the new rules would ban plastic bags outright and place a fee on paper bags.

That fee, however, was set at just five cents -- Mirkarimi would have liked to put it higher to actually serve as a spur to bring one's own bags to the store, but he worried AB 1998 would preempt city rules. Well, no longer.

"We wrote and published that version [of the bag ban] with the expectation that AB 1998 was going to pass," he said. "Now with the threat of pre-emption lifted, that could change some elements of the legislation."

First off, five cents is awfully low, and Mirkarimi thinks that may grow. "Washington, D.C. has had a five-cent fee and they claim it's working," he said. "Other jurisdictions said that's too low. We're trying to assess it."

The supervisor says he hopes politicians in Sacramento regroup and push a statewide ban. But San Francisco isn't going to wait for them to do it before acting on its own.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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