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Plastic bags

San Francisco becomes first U.S. city to ban plastic grocery bags

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 by: NewsTarget staff
Tags: plastic bags, shopping bags, health news

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San Francisco's city council has voted to become the first U.S. city to ban large supermarkets from using plastic bags made from petroleum products. The legislation, approved today by the city's Board of Supervisors, is on its way to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and expected to be signed by him. Mayor Newsom supported the legislation and, according to spokesman Nathan Ballard, "Chances are good that he is going to sign it."

City Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who drafted and introduced the legislation, commented, "I'd like to believe that this is a trend in the direction of making sure that a smart, forward-thinking economy is one that understands its relationship with our environment."

"I am hopeful that other U.S. cities will also adopt similar legislation," he said. "Why wait for the federal government to enact legislation that gets to the core of this problem when local governments can just step up to the plate?"

The California Grocers Association had opposed the legislation, arguing that a switch to compostable bags would "confuse consumers." After the legislation passed by a 10-1 vote, David Heylen, a spokesman for the California Grocers Association, said "I think what grocers will do now that this has passed is, they will review all their options and decide what they think works best for them economically."

The new rules, which affect large grocery stores and chain stores with pharmacies, will allow compostable plastic bags as well as paper bags. The rule will go into effect in six months for grocery stores and in one year for pharmacies.

"I support this forward-thinking legislation," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of The Real Safety Guide to Protecting Your Environment. "Consumers should use, wherever possible, reusable shopping bags made with organic cotton or hemp," Adams said. "They're sturdy, reusable and environmentally friendly, and they don't create the landfill problem posed by plastic bags."

Currently, San Francisco sends 14,000 tons of plastic waste to landfills each year. According to the EPA, petroleum-based plastic bags, introduced in 1977, account for four out of every five bags dispensed at grocery stores and can take 1,000 years to decompose.

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