San Francisco votes to extend plastic bag ban to restaurants, gift shops, other retailers, sets US$0.10 fee for paper bags handed out at checkout, effective October

Lorena Madrigal

Lorena Madrigal

Feb 8, 2012 – Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO , February 8, 2012 () – Shoppers in San Francisco will have to pay 10 cents per bag and more retailers are now banned from handing out plastic bags under a proposal approved Tuesday by the city's Board of Supervisors.

San Francisco already bans large grocery stores and chain pharmacies from using plastic bags, which are blamed for clogging landfills and waterways. The proposal extends that ban to restaurants and to gift shops, hardware stores, boutiques and other retailers.

The 10-cent charge would apply to any type of bag, such as paper, that stores give customers at the checkout counter. The stores would keep the money.

The goal is to discourage the use of single-use bags and encourage people to bring their own bags to retailers.

San Francisco became the first city in the country to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and drug stores with an ordinance passed in 2007. Since then, other California cities, Ireland, Taiwan and the District of Columbia have enacted more stringent polices.

The supervisors approved the proposal despite concerns from some small businesses that it could drive customers away.

"The intent was never to nickel or dime anybody," Mayor Ed Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle ( on Monday, expressing his support for the measure. "But if it takes 10 cents to remind somebody that their habits are in their control, I think that's something we're willing to consider doing."

But Tony Liu, who owns four Chinatown shops frequented by tourists, said the charge may be particularly off-putting given the state of the economy.

"Things are different now," he said.

City officials have been meeting with business owners to explain the proposal. Stores that violate the law would face fines of $100 for the first infraction, $200 for the second and $500 each time after that.

But Lee said at least initially, city officials would focus on educating store owners, not fining them.

The proposal, which would go into effect in October, is backed by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Association and the city's Small Business Commission. It would exempt the use of plastic bags for items such as loose nails, dry cleaning and bulk candy.

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