plastic_bags.jpgA proposal to institute a fee for each paper bag provided at a store in San Francisco and also expand the city’s ban on plastic bags was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors today.

Starting this October, the legislation will institute a 10-cent fee for each bag provided by any retail establishment to customers. Restaurants will also be required to charge the fee starting in October 2013.

The city’s 2007 ban on supermarkets and chain store pharmacies providing single-use, non-compostable plastic bags is expanding as well to include all retail stores in October, then restaurants the following year.

The businesses charging the fee will keep the money to use how they see fit, and the plastic bag ban will include certain exemptions, such as “doggy bags” used to take home leftover food from restaurants.

Before supervisors voted on the ordinance, board president David Chiu introduced an amendment to provide additional exemptions that will allow the use of plastic bags for various delicate or heavy items, and another to require further outreach by the city’s Department of the Environment.

“All of us have heard that we still have to do more” to educate residents and merchants about the new law, Chiu said.

Department of the Environment director Melanie Nutter said her department had reached 23 different neighborhood and merchant groups to talk about the legislation and has outreach workers that speak several different languages.

Nutter said the department has also set aside money and is working with corporate partners to provide a reusable bag giveaway in the city.

“We’re poised and ready as a department … for the next seven months” when the law will go into effect, she said.

Supervisor Carmen Chu said she is aware that there are many people who see San Francisco as a city that “nickels and dimes every single thing” and that a lack of outreach could create “a lot of confusion and bad feelings.”

The vote on the proposal had been delayed for two months while more outreach was done.

During that time, the legislation’s author, then-Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi–who also authored the 2007 law–was sworn in as the city’s new sheriff and Christina Olague was appointed as his replacement.

Olague took over as a sponsor of the ordinance and expressed support of it before the vote.

“The only effective way to change the behavior of most customers is to institute a charge,” she said, adding that the law will cut down on both private and public costs of disposing of bags and is “a crucial next step” toward the city’s zero waste goal by 2020.

The board voted 10-0 in favor of the proposal. Supervisor David Campos missed today’s meeting due to an illness.

The ordinance will return in front of the board next week for final approval and then go to the mayor’s desk for signature.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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