Baggage

The city's politicos made the enviros happy by banning plastic bags, but left us with more pollution and cost

In the coming months, the state may step in and undertake the heavy lifting San Francisco has failed to do. The City of Los Angeles recently passed a measure proposing a ban of plastic bags in 2010 if the state doesn't put a 25-cent fee on them. A state bill that would have done just that died in the Assembly last year, a victim of the collapsing economy. That bill was supported by the CGA, which detests plastic bans, since they force stores to hand out paper and compostable plastic bags costing far more than conventional plastic. Yet even with backing from the grocers' lobby and the state's largest city, Mark Murray, the executive director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste, foresees "a very uphill battle" for any statewide bag fees in the current economy.

More than a thousand tons of garbage are deposited daily at “The Pit” in southeast San Francisco before being trucked across the bay to the Altamont Landfill.
Jared Gruenwald
More than a thousand tons of garbage are deposited daily at “The Pit” in southeast San Francisco before being trucked across the bay to the Altamont Landfill.
Professor William Rathje (with white jacket and sunglasses) excavates the Sunnyvale Landfill in 1988. To his left, Wilson Hughes eyeballs an old newspaper unearthed from the depths, still readable after many years in landfill.
Courtesy of William Rathje
Professor William Rathje (with white jacket and sunglasses) excavates the Sunnyvale Landfill in 1988. To his left, Wilson Hughes eyeballs an old newspaper unearthed from the depths, still readable after many years in landfill.

Ditto that on the local front. While likening San Francisco's bag ban to "a half-measure" and "one-winged airplane" without further provisions to actually cut consumption, Mirkarimi said, "the tsunami of our budget crisis" will keep San Francisco flying its one-winged plane for the time being. The honest, aggressive approaches to quell plastic bags in an ecologically responsible manner will be ceded to Santa Clara County: a region, ironically enough, many San Franciscans regard as superficial, boring, and — dare we say it — plastic.

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