Paper, what paper?

Before the discussion can move to the best bag solution for consumers and the environment, we all need to be clear about San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s proposed legislation.

The ordinance would mandate a 10-cent rebate to consumers for bringing any type of carryout bag, not necessarily a reusable bag, to use only at grocery stores and chain pharmacies.

That’s it. There is no mention of a ban on paper whatsoever.

In 2007, San Francisco banned the use of plastic carryout bags only at grocery stores and chain pharmacies. This means there are thousands of retailers in the city, large and small, who are passing out plastic bags unencumbered.

San Francisco’s own litter audit documents an increase in plastic bag litter after the ban was in place, showing the futility of banning plastic bags at only a few stores.

Nearly three years later, San Francisco has still not taken the step to be truly plastic bag free and expand their ban to all retailers. It is as if San Francisco is in denial about their bag litter issues – Plastic, what Plastic?

There is little argument that reusable bag use is the best solution for the environment, consumers and retailers. A problem arises when jurisdictions partially regulate a marketplace, like a plastic bag ban at only some retailers.

They create winners and losers, and in San Francisco. the current loser is the environment. San Francisco’s own experience shows shuttling a consumer between bag types is futile and problematic. San Francisco must look to regulate all retail sources of bags to truly address their litter issues.

Forcing the same grocery stores where plastic bags are already banned to pass out a dime to consumers reusing any bag does nothing to reduce the city’s litter problem.

California Grocers Association encourages local jurisdictions to work with their grocers on litter and other environmental concerns. By working together government and industry can maximize the environmental benefit and minimize burdens to business.

Tim James
Manager, Local Government Relations
California Grocers Association