San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi Introduces Expanded Plastic Bag Ban & 5-Cent Paper Bag Fee

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced two ordinances today that have the potential to drastically reduce the use of disposable checkout bags in San Francisco.

1. The Revised Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance

  • Expands the plastic checkout bag ban to include ALL stores in San Francisco, with certain carefully-designed exclusions.
  • Clarifies the definition of “reusable bag” eliminating the loophole that allows stores to give away thicker plastic checkout bags that fall within the current definition.

What Would be Included in the Plastic Bag Ban? The plastic bag ban would only apply to plastic checkout bags provided to the customer at the point of sale at covered stores.  In addition to the large supermarkets and pharmacies covered by San Francisco’s current law, the expansion would include:

  • Smaller supermarkets
  • Restaurants
  • Liquor stores & convenience stores
  • “Big box” retailers

Exclusions From Plastic Bag Ban

  • Food & produce bags
  • Dry cleaner bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Garbage & pet waste bags
  • Specialty retail bags
  • Reusable bags

“Reusable Bag” Definition Reusable bags are currently required to be made of cloth or other machine-washable fabric or durable plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick.  The clarified definition requires that the bags be designed for reuse “meaning 100 or more uses carrying 20 or more pounds, is machine washable in hot water.”

2. The Green Bag Charge The Green Bag Charge is a separate piece of legislation that would charge a 5-cent charge for paper checkout bags at the stores covered by the plastic checkout bag ban.  Washington DC imposed a similar fee on all disposable checkout bags (paper and plastic) – disposable checkout bag consumption declined by more than 50% within the first month.  California state law (AB 2449) makes is illegal for cities to charge fees for plastic checkout bags so a fee on plastic bags is currently not an option.

The Green Bag Charge would be retained by the retailer and retailers are urged to use the proceeds of the charge to encourage the use of reusable bags.

Text of Proposed Ordinances:

This sfgate article provides some background.