plastic_bags.jpgSan Francisco’s restriction on checkout bags could be expanded to include all retail stores and restaurants and customers could be charged for each bag a business provides if legislation being considered by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday is approved.

San Francisco already has a law passed in 2007 banning supermarkets and chain store pharmacies from providing single-use, non-compostable plastic bags to customers.

The current proposal, introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, would expand that ban to include all retail establishments starting in July 2012, and all food establishments in 2013.

The legislation also proposes a fee that stores would collect for each bag provided.

Starting in July 2013, the charge would be 10 cents per bag, then 25 cents the following year. The stores would keep the money to use how they see fit.

Certain exemptions would be made in the law, including for “doggy bags” used to take leftovers from a restaurant.

Mirkarimi’s legislation cites the “significant litter problems” single-use bags create in the city, and notes that Ireland has instituted a similar bag charge that has drastically reduced the country’s use of the disposable bags and increased the use of reusable bags.

Some members of the local business community seem receptive to the proposal–when the legislation was discussed at a meeting of the board’s city operations and neighborhood services committee last week, Jim Lazarus from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce said his organization supports it.

However, Stephen Joseph, legal counsel for the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, said at the Nov. 14 committee hearing that his group plans to take legal action if the proposal is approved.

Joseph said a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year requires cities larger than Manhattan Beach, the Southern California town involved in the lawsuit the court ruled on, to undergo environmental review of a proposal before it can be approved.

San Francisco’s city attorney’s office said the city’s proposal was exempt from the state’s environmental review specifications, a decision Joseph said was “very troubling.”

The board committee ultimately decided to send the proposal to the full board without recommendation.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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