Plastic Bag Ban

SF Citizen's picture

It looks like the State Legislature didn't pass the ban on single-use plastic bags: Does anybody have an opinion on that? Seems like it's been a definite issue of interest for some awhile. 

NinerFan's picture

I'd like SF to expand its ban

I'd like SF to expand its ban to include all retail establishments, even small ma and pop-type stores not just grocery and Walgreens stores. 

StephanieK's picture

I agree

I agree that the plastic bag ban should be city-wide but I'd also like to see more cities adopting this idea.  SF should do more to promote the benefits of all the bags that are not in a landfill because of adopting this ordinance. 

Phil Ting's picture

DC Plastic Bag Tax drops usage 60%

Wall Street Journal reported that after DC implemented a 5 cent tax on plastic bags, there has been a 60% drop in plastic bag usage.  Not only that but people are commonly bringing their own bags rather than using any type of bag.  Should SF adopt this tax?

Isn't the goal to have people recycle their own bags rather than only choose between paper and plastic?

zombiepanda's picture

It really works

I was living in DC when they implemented the plastic bag tax and it really changed the way I shopped. A nickel doesn't seem like much but making that extra payment while standing at the register changes attitudes: I actually began using a canvas bag when I went to the store, a habit that was lost when I moved to San Francisco.

It would make the city a lot of money and cut down on waste. Definitely a good idea.

violentservant's picture

Ban them!

The city of Edmonds, Washington took upon itself to ban plastic bags not only from grocery stores but also retail stores. Yes, it took some time to get used to, but even the retail stores then offered reusable bags and people became accustom to it. Thus, helping the environment. I say we ban all plastic bas anywhere within the city. 

violentservant's picture

Here is a link to a news

Here is a link to a news story about the ban in Edmonds.

Diego's picture

It worked on me

I cannot emphasize what a dramatic effect the 5 cent tax had on people in DC. It's the most minor inconvenience imaginable, but it changed behaviors dramatically. I remember is the first quarter of going into effect it made the city about a quarter of a million dollars and slashed waste. The trick is in how they made you pay it - it wasn't just automatically included into the cost, they were forced to ask if you wanted a bag. In other words it wasn't treated just like a tax, but rather an additional item to purchase. This is when people hesitated and then said no.

I'm not sure if an all out ban would work in San Francisco: we're famous for our thousands of mom-and-pop shops, the stores that line Mission for example - most of them use cheap plastic bags. Can they afford not to? Wouldn't a cut similar to 60% be a big enough step forward for now?

Phil Ting's picture


I was just in IKEA two weeks ago and they ask everyone if they want to purchase a 50 cent reusable bag.  I saw very few people take them up on it.  The goal would be not to get more tax revenue but to encourage people to think twice before using a bag.  Really interesting idea and now that DC has implemented it we can have some data to study the cause and effect.  Thanks for your thoughts.

bobbyh's picture

The difference between...

I think there is a big difference between asking someone to purchase a reusable bag and saying that you will charge them 5 cents for use of a plastic bag.  The reality is that, no matter how insignificant the cost, people will usually opt for the cheaper option between plastic and paper.  Why?  Because the bag is, in economic terms, a very elastic item--people are very willing to switch their use based on price because the difference to them is really nothing.  They both get your items home the same way.  So, people are not even willing to pay 5 cents a bag more for plastic because it isn't worth anything more to them than the paper.  To that point, I think we should institute a 5 cent tax on the bags and watch as people flee the plastic stuff. 

Now, when you ask someone if they want to purchase a reusable bag for 50 cents, the same elasticity issue comes about, but this time hurts your intended goal of less plastic bags  Again, people have very elastic demand for bags that get their groceries home, and most, as Phil noticed, will not pay the extra money to "upgrade" bags and will simply use the cheapest option. 

One potential solution to getting people to buy and use the reusable bag is to offer discounts to those who bring in their own bags--you can either use the plastic bag and pay 5 cents a bag or bring in your own bag and get a credit of 5 cents for every reusable bag you bring in and use. 

ExcelsiorMom's picture

It is common practice in

It is common practice in Europe to be charged a nominal fee for a plastic bag.  I would support such a tax, as long at it was directed at all stores, not just grocery or chain drug stores.

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