Extending plastic bag ban

Ben Shore's picture


San Francisco took a major step when it banned single use plastic bags in supermarkets and now Supervisor Mirkarimi is bringing legislation that will extend the ban to all retail stores. It's a great idea for the environment; one whose results have already been clear. But I worry about the impact on businesses in this economic climate. Will this drive up their costs and hurt their bottom lines when they can least afford to have that happen?

Zaquex's picture

My Two Cents

2 to 3 cents


Amount each bag costs markets, compared with anywhere from 5 to 10 cents for a biodegradable bag.


430,000 gallons

Amount of oil needed to produce 100 million nondegradable plastic bags.

The numbers do not get any better. While the cost would be higher for all other retail stores, the action is definitely necessary. How often do we need biodegradable bags? For food scraps and maybe picking up after dogs, but other than that very rare. And how often do we need a plastic bag? To carry groceries, trash can liners, etc. The added cost would only encourage the amount of people to use reusable bags, which many already have (due to the need to go to supermarkets). People need to look at using reusable bags as a discount, rather than an excess tax. Instead, people will find that they can save money buying plastic bags in bulk only for trash cans.

Eric Jaye's picture

Not just symbolic

While the city takes many politically-motivated symbolic actions – this is far beyond symbolism. By showing that this works in one city, we help make it a reality in other cities thus magnifying the environmental benefits.

While it isn't always comfortable to be an experiment - the benefit when these experiments work are felt far beyond SF.

mattgould's picture

Article link

Here's an article on San Francisco's expanding plastic bag ban:


Phil Ting's picture

Extend Plastic Bag Ban

I still walk into markets where they use plastic bags.  They justify by having in bold large letter "RECYCLABLE" as if that makes it OK to use plastic bags.  This is a common sense proposal.  Why not use paper bags or ask more people to bring their own bags to the store.  We shouldn't just single out grocery stores, now its time to have everyone eliminate plastic bags.

mattgould's picture

Free Permanent Bags?

Retail and grocery stores should be lining up to give away free long-lasting carry bags with their logo on it. For a minimal cost you're getting customers to provide enduring advertising for the company, the customers are happy to receive a free gift and will associate that happiness with the company, and company image gets a boost for being environmentally conscious. Smart marketers know that that's more than enough incentive to make long-lasting bags cost effective.

catherinejanem's picture

In the interest of truly reducing waste...

We should encourage every person to purchase a few tote bags.  My parents have used tote bags for groceries since I was a child, and I do as well.  They are inexpensive and long-lasting.  While it might be a first step to encourage stores to produce their own bags, in the interest of truly reducing waste, it is a small price to pay for every person to purchase a few tote bags that they can use to shop at any store.  

mattgould's picture


Nice. You're lucky to have parents who care so much about the world that they leave to their children! Unfortunately, not all parents are so mindful. So my question is... how do we truly encourage people to purchase tote bags?

gcotter's picture

BYOB can equal job creation

I don't know if others have noticed it, but many large stores now sell or give away "permanent" bags.  The hitch?  the bag has the name or logo of the store.  Many enterprises give away totes that advertise a store, product, a brand.  I just looked in my closet and I have tote bags from Wells Fargo, Ace Hardware, Beach Cleanup Day, Walgrens', plus a few from politicians. I can't remember the last time I needed to get a plastic bag at a store other than unexpected shopping when I didn't have one of my tote bags with me.

But here's the good part:  There can be job creation in making, printing, selling, and distributing these bags.  Yeah, I imagine many of  the ones currently available are made outside of the country right now, but they could be made here in SF.  

Made in SF to reduce SF landfill - how cool would that be?

Can someone figure a way to take money from one of the city funds for job creation and help some entrepreneur start up a business hiring currently unemployed people or homeless people to make canvas totes?  Hire an unemployed designer to work with major corporations to design the logo for the bag, hire unemployed salesmen to sell them to retailers or to groups - e.g., AIDS Walk logo sold to the organizer, Bay to Breaker - free tote bag with registration paid for by a sponsor, Museums, Chamber of Commerce, the list of potential customers is endless.

Yes, tote bags made locally would be more expensive that if they were manufactured in China or Guatemala or some of the place. Stores might not be able to give them away for free.  But, there is terrific cachet in being able to have "Made in San Francisco by San Francisco residents" printed on the bag and would be a powerful marketing tool.  Even though they might cost a bit more, the manufacturing of them would generate job creation and that is the kind of synergy we need to foster in the community.  

Anyone with ideas on how to build on something like this?

DonRoss's picture

Old Jean Scraps

We could ask the Gap and Levi's to donate jean scraps to the production of tote bags and then make them here in SF for a minimal fee. It would recycle old scraps of denim and produce jobs locally. What do you think?

gcotter's picture

Great Idea!

I love your idea of getting fabrics like denim from Gap and Levi's.  They should be able to get a tax write off for it and SF benefits.  Plus, it is great PR for the donating companies - sounds like a win-win to me.  Anyone out there in reader-land who can think of a way to line up fabric donations?

 And thinking that way, are there any other sources where material - new or used could be collected and recycled for totes.

I was throwing out some really old clothes and sheets (too worn or damaged for Sally A or Goodwill) so I asked Sunset Scavenger whether I could put them in the blue Recycle Bin - I figured maybe they could be ground up for paper making or insulation but I was told No, they had to go in with garbage.  OK maybe there is someplace to recycle cloth but that would be another post.  

Anyway, what I'm thinking is that maybe in addition to new fabric there would be sources of used fabric that could be used for totes.  And that would mean a couple more jobs for picking clothes apart and cutting material into sections for re-use.

Years ago there was a shop on Haight (?) where they sold recycled rubber - no, really! - and they had purses and other items made from automobile inner-tubes, sandals from tire-treads, etc.  Who knows, maybe used plastic bags could be cut into strips and woven into a fabric strong enough to make a tote - talk about the ultimate answer to keeping plastic bags out of landfill.

Maybe a city sponsored contest on finding ways and materials to make totes?

DonRoss's picture

Ways to Use Recycling Things

I think the Sunset Scavanger idea is great, and working with local non-profits and or job training facilities we could create a program to make these bags with all different types of recycled materials. I'm sure there is a large cost to the City to deal with plastic bags in general that you could justify the City and private business putting some money into this.

Lucy in the sky's picture

Recycled bags

I think finding uses for scrap cloth material is a great one and maybe one that we could have youth groups in San Francisco can start up or learn designing or marketing.


But about plastic grocery bags... I think they should be banned.  I'm guilty of forgetting my recyclable bag when going to the grocery store and when I'm at the checkout counter I feel both guilty and embarrassed and end up buying another recyclable bag.  i have to say that my collection of bags is growing.  Over all I think all people should feel this way and encouraged to stop the plastic habit.

mattgould's picture

How can we make this scrap

How can we make this scrap cloth material tote bags idea a reality? What steps do people have to take to organize and activate such fantastic ideas?

DonRoss's picture



It terms of the scaps cloths, I'm not sure, but with regard to banning plastic bags and the effort to take it statewide, AB1998 would do just that.  From one city to now the state. The state of California gives out 19 billion free plastic bags annually and only 5-6% of the plastic is recycled.

We need to lead the nation in banning plastic bags. Call your State Senator and Assemblyperson to support this measure.

Bernadette's picture

Permanent/reusable bags are

Permanent/reusable bags are ideal, but I think that they would not be financially feasible for smaller businesses.  However, I think that advocating the use of biodegradable bags would be a possible compromise.  While it still has the problem of resource use, at least it will decrease non-biodegradable waste and still be convenient to people such as Lucy in the Sky who don't want to use regular plastic bags but also do not want to have to keep buying more reusable bags the few times they actually forget to bring their own bags.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137