Plastic Bags Banned in San Francisco

Updating an earlier post: In a move to over-regulate private business, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday 10-1 to ban plastic bags from grocery stores.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Shopper after San Francisco shopper had praise Wednesday for the Board of Supervisors’ vote banning plastic checkout bags at supermarkets and chain drugstores.

Some were so excited they put down their plastic checkout bags to talk about it.

“We need to get rid of a hell of a lot of this stuff,” Ora Gosey, 56, said outside an Albertsons in the Western Addition. As the retiree spoke, she inched away from a case of grape soda she had placed on the ground as if it didn’t belong to her. It was double-bagged in plastic.

“I needed something,” she admitted, “because it’s so heavy.”

Plastic checkout bags are pretty convenient, Gosey and others said. You can carry them easily down the sidewalk or on a bus, and they’re less prone to ripping than paper. At home, they come in handy for packing trash. And in the park, they’re good to have when you walk the dog.

According to the Film and Bag Federation, a plastics industry group, the bags can also be used to keep things dry in a canoe, make Christmas wreaths and kites, and assist in the nearly impossible task of putting on a wetsuit.

But none of the Albertsons shoppers interviewed Wednesday was getting into a wetsuit, and all said they would easily cope with the legislation — the first of its kind in a U.S. city — outlawing plastic bags at supermarkets in about six months and chain pharmacies in a year. They said it was a small price to pay to help the environment and, perhaps, to be trendsetters.

In addition to the regulation issue, there are two more problems I have with this action – especially if this effort grows to a national effort.

1) Because paper or recyclable plastic bags are more expensive, stores will have to raise prices.  Since food is a major component of the CPI, and a lot of things are tied to the CPI, any increase in inflation will ripple through the economy.

2) Paper is made from trees.  Thus, making more paper means cutting down more trees.  So, this solution is not completely environmentally friendly.  Yes, plastic is made from oil – and trees are a renewable resource.  But to pitch this as saving the environment may be a bit of an overstatement.

Now, I know that having one city – even a large one like San Francisco – enact this measure will not have any real impact on the environment or the economy.  I’m just saying there are some real effects if this measure is carried to a larger scale.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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