San Jose Gets Plastic Bag Ban San Francisco Needs

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Yesterday, San Jose became the largest city in the nation to ban plastic bags. San Francisco can always note that we were first to this bag-banning parade. But it warrants mentioning that San Jose's ban is better and smarter than our ban.

In addition to curtailing the use of plastic carry-out bags, San Jose's ban also places a 10-cent fee on paper ones. San Francisco's status quo does not -- shunting shoppers, unthinkingly, to paper bags, and only affecting large grocery-type stores. As SF Weekly wrote in a 2009 cover story, this did nothing for vast swaths of the city and has resulted in dubious environmental benefits.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has introduced legislation to finally make this ban make sense: It would extend to virtually every store in the city and impose a paper bag fee to actually incentivize consumers to bring their own bags to the store.

"The end goal is obviously neither paper nor plastic," notes Mirkarimi.

His hope has always been for shoppers to bring their own bags -- just as they do in Ireland, continental Europe, and other places that haven't devolved into anarchy when the large-scale use of one-time bags started to come with a fee and was largely phased out. (Mirkarimi, incidentally, has five canvas bags with him at just about all times).

If ever you needed to demonstrate that legislation isn't zany or "out there," a good rejoinder is "San Jose is doing it." Hopefully San Francisco can get over the ignominy of being beaten to the punch by a region many of our denizens consider to be staid, boring -- and plastic.

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