San Francisco bag fee, plastic ban poised to move forward 

San Francisco on Tuesday could become the latest on a growing list of California cities to impose a fee on shoppers who fail to bring their own bags.

In December, the Board of Supervisors postponed a vote on legislation that would have banned all single-use plastic bags and required merchants to impose a 10-cent charge per bag they provide to customers. The merchants would keep the revenue from the fee.

But a decision was postponed after members of the board said merchants were worried about the proposal and that not enough outreach was done.

Since then, the Department of the Environment has held community meetings and reached out to merchant groups to explain the proposal, answer questions and allay fears.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said he supports the fee after a number of amendments were made to address his concerns -- including capping the charge at 10 cents, expanding exemptions for small items such as nails at a hardware store or cookies, and postponing its implementation date.

Under the proposal, all single-use plastic bags would be banned. Instead, only three kinds of bags would be allowed -- recycled paper, compostable plastic and reusable. Such a restriction is currently in place for grocery stores and pharmacies. In addition, any bag provided to a customer beginning Oct. 1 would have to come with a 10-cent charge.

The expectation is the fee would change shoppers’ habits and reduce bag usage, as has been the case in other cities where such a fee was imposed. It also could reduce litter and cut down on negative environmental impacts.

The law was initially proposed by Ross Mirkarimi, who is no longer a supervisor after being sworn in Jan. 8 as sheriff. Supervisor Christina Olague, who was appointed to fill Mirkarimi’s seat, is now listed as the lead sponsor. Olague did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Lee said he supports what the legislation aims to accomplish, but has other concerns.

Lee “wants to make sure that both business owners and the public are fully aware of the fee before it is implemented,” spokeswoman Christine Falvey said Friday.

Shopping totes

Details about a proposed bag fee and single-use plastic bag ban for San Francisco merchants:

Oct. 1: Fee and ban would take effect

10 cents: Fee per bag merchants would charge (no charge for customers who bring in their own bags)

12: Days per year merchants could distribute free reusable bags

Source: Department of the Environment

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