San Francisco Bans Plastic Bags:
180 Million a Year

Back in the summer of 2005, I expressed my disappointment that San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's proposal to levy a $.17 tax on plastic shopping bags didn't go very far, "Plastic Bag Tax: Good Enough for Dublin, Why Not San Francisco?"

A lot has happened to change the political environment in the past 21 months -- Hurricane Katrina, oil prices skyrocketing, ecosystems on the verge of collapse, and the awarding of an Oscar to a documentary about global warming.

Suddenly environmental issues have taken center stage and a plastic bag tax doesn't seem so radical. Yesterday, Mirkarimi and all those who supported his efforts to tax plastic bags were vindicated, and rewarded with an even better result.
The city's Board of Supervisors approved groundbreaking legislation Tuesday to outlaw plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets in about six months and large chain pharmacies in about a year.

The ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, is the first such law in any city in the United States.

Under the legislation, which passed 10-1 in the first of two votes, large markets and pharmacies will have the option of using compostable bags made of corn starch or bags made of recyclable paper. San Francisco will join a number of countries, such as Ireland, that already have outlawed plastic bags or have levied a tax on them. Final passage of the legislation is expected at the board's next scheduled meeting, and the mayor is expected to sign it.
Of course, the California Grocers Association isn't happy about it, behaving like most corporate entities, putting profits over people and the planet. (Funny, the CGA shows paper bags on its corporate website!)
"We're disappointed that the Board of Supervisors is going down this path," said Kristin Power, the association's vice president for government relations. "It will frustrate recycling efforts and will increase both consumer and retailer costs. There's also a real concern about the availability and quality of compostable bags."
How much will costs increase? For retailers, the difference is about 2 to 8 cents between plastic bags and biodegradable bags. This law will instantaneoulsy increase demand for compostable bags, which will in turn create business opportunies for those who can solve any issues of availability or quality.

The real savings is for the environment and the planet. The City of San Francisco uses about 180 million plastic bags a year, which require 774,000 gallons of oil to produce. How much does that oil cost? A lot more than most would imagine.

Getting 180 million plastic bags out of our ocean and landfills? Priceless.


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