San Francisco Expands Plastic Bag Ban

Restaurants Can No Longer Provide Single-Use Bags

Plastic Bag BanSix years after becoming the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic bags in supermarkets and pharmacies, San Francisco began enforcing the final component of its sweeping waste reduction laws this week. After a one-year enforcement delay, restaurants can now no longer provide single-use plastic bags to customers for takeout or delivery orders. Violations will carry fines of between $100 and $500, according to city officials.

"We will do spot checks to see how well compliance is going and we'll continue to provide the resources and information that restaurants need to either find a compostable bag vendor or provide the outreach materials needed to help their customers," said Melanie Nutter, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

The expanded ban may provide even more sales opportunities for distributors, many of whom have already benefitted from the initial single-use ordinance. Zachary Tyler, executive vice president of San Francisco-based Creative Marketing Concepts (asi/170631), told Counselor that he’s seen a huge spike in eco-friendly bag sales, as customers look for improved quality and value.

"We think customers are adding money to their promotional spends for additional bags, and that it's not cannibalizing other predetermined promotional buys," he said. "Professionally, I am really grateful for the increased sales our reps are receiving."

Following San Francisco's lead, several California towns have enacted single-use plastic bag bans. The most recent is Redwood City, which began enforcing a plastic bag ban in grocery stores and retailers on Tuesday. The Redwood City ordinance also includes a 10-cent charge for paper bags. "We've only had positive feedback," said Redwood City spokeswoman Sheri Costa-Batis. "There seems to be a real sense that residents understand the environmental impact of plastic bags."

Soon to join Redwood City is Santa Barbara, after city leaders voted 6-to-0 to pass an ordinance this week banning plastic grocery bags. Large grocery stores and pharmacies will have to comply with the new law by next spring. Six months after that, the ordinance will extend to about 64 smaller outlets that sell food, officials said.