Plastic War Continues: Bag Fee Could Rise to 25 Cents

Stores would also be required to make pre-checkout bags, like for produce, compostable or recyclable.

(Courtesy photo)

Those 10 cents San Franciscans pay when they forget to bring a shopping bag could rise to 25 cents starting next year.

Supervisor Vallie Brown introduced legislation on Tuesday that would increase bag fees to further reduce single-use items. Stores would have until July 1, 2020 to come into compliance, joining 11 other California jurisdictions like Santa Cruz.

“We’ve been leaders when it comes to plastic and zero waste, yet we’re still drowning in single-use plastics,” Brown said at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

The legislation is an effort to reduce the 100 billion plastic bags used nationwide each year, only 1 percent of which is recycled. For context provided by Brown’s office, that’s roughly as many people who have ever lived and as many stars in the Milky Way.

When the 10-cent charge took effect in San Francisco, the Department of the Environment noted that 60 percent of customers brought their own bags. Santa Cruz officials reported that 90 percent of customers bring their own bags with a 25-cent charge, the legislation notes.

Sooner rather than later, they’ll have to account for small bags as well. The legislation would also require pre-checkout bags to be compostable or recyclable.

Reduction in single-use plastics has made a difference in the level of pollution. In 2016, two years after California outlawed single-use plastic bags, they accounted for just two percent of litter found during coastal cleanups — a 66 percent drop from the year before.

In July 2018, the Board of Supervisors approved a plastic straw ban to counter the 67 percent of street trash that comes from single-use foodware items. The Department of the Environment estimates that 60 percent of items in the city’s landfills could still be recycled or composted. (Here’s how you could make a dent.)

Brown, who worked on both the 2007 plastic bag ban and 2012 bag fee ordinance, suggested bringing your own smaller bags — bread bags do the trick — or loose-carry altogether.

“If we’re going to achieve zero waste, we need to make ‘refuse’ the new ‘recycle’,” Brown said.

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