S.F. More Than Doubles Fees for Checkout Bags

The update to San Francisco's 10 cent checkout fees also comes with restrictions on produce bags.

(Courtesy photo)

Nine years after first instituting a 10 cent charge on bag fees, San Franciscans will soon pay 25 cents to cut down on single-use waste.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to begin charging 25 cents for a bag at a store checkout counter, more than doubling the fee starting July 2020. San Francisco’s update to its 10 cent fee also requires produce bags to be made of compost or recyclable paper. 

Just one percent of plastic bags are recycled and Americans use 100 billion a year. Not only could San Francisco help bring down that number, but it would help fill Mayor London Breed’s new targets to reduce total waste by 15 percent and halve the waste sent to landfill by 2030. (San Francisco’s 2018 ban on plastic straws could also make a dent.)

“Despite our efforts to date, this amount continues to grow,” Brown says. “We need to change. We need to make ‘refuse’ the new recycling.”

Though the Department of the Environment found that 60 percent of customers bring their own bags after the 10 cent fee went into place in 2012, Santa Cruz boasts 90 percent of customers do the same with a 25 cent charge. At least 11 jurisdictions in California have bag fees higher than 10 cents. 

Produce bags are even smaller and tougher to recycle but are largely unchecked — until now. Brown criticized grocery stores that offer green plastic bags, associating themselves with environmentalism while contributing to plastic waste. She previously recommended customers bring their own smaller bags for produce — such as emptied bread bags — or stick them in with the rest of the larger bag.

“People think they’re being responsible and environmental [but] they are actually being fooled by these types of bags,” Brown said. “It’s time for us as a city, as a leader on the environment, to step up. We only have this one planet and it’s all on us.”

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