From: Associated Press
Published November 22, 2004 12:00 AM

San Francisco Proposes Charging Fee for Grocery Sacks to Reduce Waste

SAN FRANCISCO − City officials are considering charging grocery stores 17 cents each for grocery bags to discourage use of plastic sacks.


More than 90 percent of consumers choose plastic bags, which are blamed for everything from clogging recycling machines to killing marine life and suffocating infants. But the fee would also apply to paper bags to help reduce overall waste.


Promoting a healthy environment "means we need to help change people's patterns, and that even means their shopping patterns," said incoming city Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who takes office in January. "This is a sensible user fee."


The city's Commission on the Environment will consider the proposal Tuesday. Mayor Gavin Newsom is reviewing the idea.


The city's Department of the Environment estimates San Francisco customers bring home about 50 million bags each year. That accounts for about 2 percent of waste, at an annual cleanup cost of about $8.4 million.


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Grocers and the plastics industry oppose the measure.


"We think essentially it's an unnecessary and misguided approach," said Tim Shestek, spokesman for the American Plastics Council. "This tax is going to hurt those who can least afford it."


State legislators defeated a bill last year that would have charged 2 cents on each non-recyclable disposable bag.


The San Francisco proposal parallels efforts in Ireland, South Africa, Bangladesh, Australia, Shanghai and Taiwan, which ban plastic bags or charge a fee to use them.


Source: Associated Press


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