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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No more grocery store bags? This has gone too far

I need to admit to an error; as Brittney Gilbert pointed out, it was not a ban on paper bags, it's a ordinance to have all stores give a small credit to shoppers who bring their own. While I admit to this mistake, I am not editing the portion below; I feel that it is important to show that there is the possibility the city may try to ban paper bags in the future, but encouraging stores to give a credit is the first step in a possible ban.


There's nothing worse than hearing in the Chronicle that San Francisco's Board of Supervisors wants to go further in their banning of free bags being handed out at grocery stores, major drugstores, and other places that makes over a certain limit in profits per year.

Sure, banning plastic bags is a good idea because they cause a lot of harm when thrown away; but it has been demonstrated that when grocery stores collect used plastic bags, they can be used to make helpful items like benches. There's a bench made out of recycled plastic shopping bags at the Lucky supermarket at Lakeshore Plaza at the left entrance.

There's the new "green" plastic bags that claim to be recyclable and can be thrown in compost; but the bags sure feel like just regular plastic bags, but are sometimes not compatible with specific policies about recycling, depending on which city or county you live in.

While San Francisco has the longest list of items that can be recycled or composted, like any plastic item with a numbered symbol and even plastic forks; plastic bags are truly the gray zone of what can be recycled/composted or not, and neither has the city really made it clear to us what is OK and what is not. I would assume that the bags made from corn are OK to compost, but even I'm confused.

But how about now? Supervisor Ross wants to ban paper bags? How low can this city really go? How can you ban the essential item that helps us carry multiple items around on the bus or up the long flight of stairs? Do you expect every citizen of this city to carry a reusable bag in their pocket wherever they go, even in situations where you forgot to get the groceries, and now you have to carry it all in your hands or buy a $2 sack? At least paper bags are accepted everywhere to be recycled and they can always be re-used for helpful purposes, from making textbook covers to neatly packing newspaper for recycling (this was an old policy by the garbage company when we all received little blue bins).

In one point of view, if the city enforced a no-bag policy at the places that currently are using the no plastic bag rule, it may be considered the death of supermarkets, pharmacies, and drug stores. It may be a boon for the little markets like in Chinatown where the red colored bag is standard (maybe good luck?), but don't expect a happy corporation to stay in our city, or local citizens grumpy enough that now they have to pick-up their dog poop in a paper bag that may leak.

I have to ask myself, isn't there more important things the city should handle than debating over what type of bag we should be using for shopping? Muni is still not fixed, we've got a lame duck mayor, and surely the homeless problem is getting worse.

It's time to start shopping in Daly City; home to the words "paper or plastic" and styrofoam. Hell, my workplace is less than a mile from the border and just an extra half-mile to Westlake.


murphstahoe said...

"it has been demonstrated that when grocery stores collect used plastic bags, they can be used to make helpful items like benches. There's a bench made out of recycled plastic shopping bags at the Lucky supermarket at Lakeshore Plaza at the left entrance."

The US probably goes through enough plastic water/coke/juice/milk bottles daily to produce enough "helpful items like benches" for years. We don't need to make plastic shopping bags in order to be able to recycle them into benches.

Erik said...

Plastic bags have always been recyclable, the problem is that they aren't sortable. They tangle up with other materials, get caught in and wound around conveyors, and are practically impossible to tear or shred using the machinery that processes other plastics.

Biodegradable bags won't stay around forever but they still cause the same problems if they get into sorting equipment.

Greg said...

San Francisco never banned plastic bags. Every store along Irving Street has them. I have a huge box of them at home as I re-use them from time to time. SF just did a poseur move by banning them only at chain stores.

This undermines the argument against them. If they're evil, why are they only evil at "chain stores?" If not, why not?

Ireland did this right by simply having all plastic bags available at stores, one simply had to pay for them (to cover the actual cost of the bag to the waste managment system). Within a year 90% of people used re-usable bags, and using said plastic ones was akin to a person not scooping up their dogs poop. People simply shared their bags with each other and even the stores that opposed it are now for it.


murphstahoe said...

At Whole Foods, Mollie Stones, and DeLano's, you get 5 cents back (per bag, per trip?) if you use your own bags. Strange human observation - a "discount" isn't viewed the same as a "charge".

Akit said...

I noticed just recently of Lucky Supermarkets giving out black colored plastic bags instead of paper.

There's in interesting regulation about the plastic bag law in the city, stores can give it out if it meets a certain thickness; in Lucky's case, it's a thicker bag they are giving out.