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San Francisco Expands Plastic Bag Ban


About five years after becoming the first city in the U.S. to enact a limited ban on single-use plastic bags in supermarkets and certain pharmacies, San Francisco has extended its ordinance to include hardware stores, gift shops and eventually restaurants. Presenting an opportunity for Bay Area distributors to tout reusable totes and other eco-friendly ideas, the expanded ordinance also will require shoppers to pay 10 cents for each paper bag stores provide to them. Revenues from bag fees will be kept by individual stores. “The complete ban on plastic bags I do support,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “I support it for all the environmental reasons.”

While some small business owners have balked at the legislation, the ordinance passed the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously and has the support of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the California Grocers Association. In San Francisco alone, environmental officials estimate they spend $8.5 million annually to deal with plastic bag litter. “The passage of this legislation is a crucial next step in ensuring our responsibilities as stewards, and San Francisco’s commitment to our zero-waste goal by 2020 and in expanding the local green economy,” said Supervisor Christina Olague. “Now it’s time for San Francisco to catch up and continue to show environmental leadership.”

City officials plan to enforce the ordinance beginning in October, but it won’t apply to restaurants until 2013. Stores that violate the ban would face fines of $100 for the first infraction, $200 for the second and $500 each time after that. The ordinance includes several exemptions, allowing plastic bags to be used for dry cleaning, newspapers, bulk candy and fresh flowers. Since San Francisco officials first passed a plastic bag ban in 2007, several other cities across the U.S., Europe and Asia have enacted stricter rules.

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