Saturday, 21 April 2007

San Francisco Votes To Ban Plastic Shopping Bags

Supermarkets and chain pharmacies would have to use recyclable or
compostable sacks
by Charlie Goodyear/ San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved groundbreaking
legislation Tuesday to outlaw plastic checkout bags at large
supermarkets in about six months and large chain pharmacies in about a year.

The ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, is the first
such law in any city in America and has been drawing global scrutiny.

"I am astounded and surprised by the worldwide attention,"
Mirkarimi said. "Hopefully, other cities and other states will
follow suit."

Fifty years ago, plastic bags,starting first with the sandwich
bag were seen in the United States as a more sanitary and
environmentally friendly alternative to the deforesting paper bag.
Now an estimated 180 million plastic bags are distributed to
shoppers each year in San Francisco. Made of filmy plastic,they
are hard to recycle and easily blow into trees and waterways,
where they are blamed for killing marine life.
They also occupy much-needed landfill space.

Two years ago, San Francisco officials considered imposing a
17-cent tax on petroleum-based plastic bags before reaching a deal
with the California Grocers Association. The agreement called
for large supermarkets to reduce by 10 million the number of bags
given to shoppers in 2006. The grocers association said it cut back by 7.6 million, but city officials called that figure unreliable and unverifiable due to poor data supplied by markets.

The dispute led to a renewed interest in outlawing the standard
plastic bag, which Mirkarimi said Tuesday was a "relic of the
past." Under the legislation, which passed 10-1 in the first of
two votes, large markets and pharmacies will have the option of
using compostable bags made of corn starch or bags made of
recyclable paper. San Francisco will join a number of countries,
such as Ireland, that already have outlawed plastic bags or have
levied a tax on them. Final passage of the legislation is expected at the board's next scheduled meeting.

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