Bag Fee: It's Day One and the World Has Not Yet Ended

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Ross Mirkarimi's bag fee is here, even if his status is less certain
When San Francisco banned plastic grocery bags in 2007, the city nearly tore its rotator cuff patting itself on the back with gusto. Today, however, marks the first day that the city has enacted a grocery bag measure that will actually do what the '07 ban was ostensibly meant to do: help the environment and reduce bag consumption.

You didn't miss the parade. There wasn't one. It says a bit about San Francisco that we were thrilled to be first to enact publicity-generating, feel-good legislation of dubious effectiveness or scientific merit, but no one really seems to much care about finally getting around to adopting a real and meaningful policy.

Well, at least we've done it. As SF Weekly noted in a cover story and subsequent coverage, the only way other cities and countries have sacked runaway bag use was by crafting legislation that looks a lot like San Francisco's new status quo. 
See also: The city's politicos made the enviros happy by banning plastic bags, but left us with more pollution and cost

Can San Francisco Finally Get a Bag Ban Right?

If you can remember back to the primordial days of 2007, the initial plastic bag ban was just that -- a ban solely on plastic grocery bags. It only applied to stores grossing more than $2 million yearly, so plastic bags still blew around vast swaths of the city. And it automatically shunted consumers to paper bags, which are arguably just as environmentally destructive as plastic sacks.

Over the years, San Francisco has honed its bag policy to make it more and more like the sound actions other cities undertook first. It has been extended to more stores and more types of bags. And, finally, the ordinance taking effect today bans the use of plastic bags, and places a 10-cent fee on the use of paper or compostable ones, to be collected by the merchant.

Knee-jerk troglodytes of the sort populating vast swaths of the web will certainly grumble about San Francisco's "nanny state" policies. But the term is ill-applied in this case; bag consumption is not an individual but societal problem. Also, San Francisco is only now adopting the none-too-flashy but rather sensible rules other, more politically conservative burgs have had in place for years. No one is entitled to a free bag. And those bitching about the cost can keep their bags and reuse them. Hey, they're free the second time.

Former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi all along acknowledged to SF Weekly that his splashy bag ban was incomplete. He vowed to enact more substantive legislation. And, to his credit, he did. Whatever the sheriff-in-limbo's other problems -- and he has many to sift through -- he did his part here. Give that man a free bag.

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My Voice Nation Help

Since plastic bags are banned, I no longer feel responsible for picking up my dog's poop.  Enjoy.


I hate this.  My family goes through about 20-25 bags of groceries each week. That's two parents and two kids minus an order of take out or two a week.  Seriously.  20-25 bags of groceries.


So my food bill just went up two bucks a month or I have to BUY and bring  7-10 reusable bags every time we go shopping.  Oh and we reuse our paper bags for a million purposes so it's not like they were just going into the landfill. 


People wonder why families leave the City?  It's this kind of stuff as much as it's housing and schools.  I'm not kidding.  And we talk about it with each other too. People I know all applaud the noble intention but HATE the actual policy.  Feels like we're getting nickel and dimed.  It's not the extra two bucks, it's the constant reminder of the high price we pay to live here.


We all have our canvas sacks and use them daily for a million things.  But we also have to buy and cook a ton of food and it's just not realistic for most of us to bring reusable bags to the store.  I mean, have you ever tried to get out of the house with two little kids?  Diapers, water, snacks, jackets, etc....  Now, I have to bring my canvas bags or pay more for the privilege of shopping in SF?


Forget it.  For a city that pays so much lip service to wanting to keep families in town, the Board of Supervisors enacts a staggering amount of policy that pushes us right out.  Nobody is going to move just because it costs an extra dime per shopping bag but it's another reminder that the City's priorities lie elsewhere.  And now we'll be reminded every time we go food shopping. 


And it's no surprise that Ross Mikarimi was the genius behind this dumb idea.  Based on his court documents, he didn't spend much time thinking about, or even being with, his family, let alone consider how his policies might impact others.


@transbay that's the first thing I thought of. What is the fate of the pink plastic bags of Chinatown?


 @JustAnotherParent Is San Jose anti-family? Is Ireland anti-family? Is the entirety of the European continent anti-family?


You seem to be an intelligent and organized person. I think you can manage this. If you're taking the kids to the store via a motor vehicle, it's pretty easy to keep the bags in the trunk.


I understand the frustration at some pretty transparently anti-family legislation in this city -- I live here too. But I don't think this rises to the level of so many other things.






 @joe.eskenazi   I don't know if San Jose is anti-family.  From what I read in the papers, they cut their police force and social services and are now trying to stop people from shooting each other. Good planning Mayor Reed!


Despite the Board's foreign policy declarations, San Francisco isn't a country like Ireland or a collection of nations like Europe.  It's a city surrounded by less expenses places to live and shop.


Your point is fair, this isn't the end of the world.  But it is another piece of data that's discussed, debated and dissected by parents on playgrounds and in living rooms as we try to figure out how to stay here.  Many of us feel that we're being bled to death by a million noble policies. Now, we're going to be reminded every time we go food shopping.  Brilliant marketing.

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