Plastic Bag Ban Fails in Senate

Plastic bags.jpg
Joe Eskenazi
A reprieve for the plastic bag
In a move held at around the hour you'd expect our elected legislators to be watching The Tonight Show, the state senate voted down a bevy of high-profile bills, including one that would have banned the use of plastic grocery bags.

The staff of that bill's author, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, last night sent out numerous updates on the status of the plastic bag bill with a frequeny and urgency befitting the coverage of a Papal election. In the end, the ban was outvoted 21-14 in the senate. While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he'd have signed the plastic bag ban, the American Chemistry Council lobbied hard against it -- with success.

The bill would have banned single-use plastic bags at grocery stores -- and, eventually, "convenience stores, foodmarts" and others. Stores would have been permitted to provide only reusable bags or paper bags, for a cost of not less than five cents per bag.

As SF Weekly wrote in a cover story last year, bag fees -- of the sort AB 1998 would have imposed, though weakly -- are the only measure that has ever really driven down the consumption of single-use bags.

Here in San Francisco, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi in August proposed widening the city's plastic bag ban to just about every store in the city, while imposing a five-cent fee on paper bags. If the end goal is actually to reduce plastic bag consumption and spur shoppers to bring their own bags, this move seems logical.

Mirkarimi was unsure whether the since-defeated bill would have allowed San Francisco to have stricter standards than the state. The demise of AB 1998 would appear to clear the way for the city to impose whatever form of ban it sees fit. A call to Mirkarimi this morning for clarification has not yet been returned.

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