San Fran Bag Ban: Is it working?
January 9, 2008 10:34 PM   Subscribe

San Fran Bag Ban: Is it working?

Can anyone in the San Fran area shed some light on the recently enacted bag ban? How are your fellow Bay Area residents taking to it? Has their been a lot of griping? Rejoicing? Have people switched to reusable bags or just moved over to paper? Do you see less litter, even in this early stage?
posted by Vavuzi to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
All I know is that as a responsible dog owner it sucks, but thats the only real gripe I've heard.

I think you're seeing both people switching to reusable bags and paper (well paper is the only other option right now)

I've noticed many stores (whole foods, trader joes and a few more forward thinking ones) really pushing the reusable bags.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:55 PM on January 9, 2008

It seemed to be working when I was at Cala Foods last week. Like in Ireland, it really affected pet walkers and the poor more strategically at first. I think this will change soon, though. It's a much smarter initiative for San Francisco than some of the other ideas their Department of the Environment had kicked around, like street lights powered by moonlight.
posted by parmanparman at 12:03 AM on January 10, 2008

Anecdotally, I've seen more tote bags displayed for sale at grocery stores. I've also seen more people bringing said tote bags to the grocery store for reuse. A scattered few places are using some form of biodegradable plastic bags that do the job but aren't very sturdy. I believe some places like the farmers markets are exempt from the ban so folks might actually be shopping there just to get their plastic bag fix. People are adapting just fine. I don't think I've heard anyone complaining about it.
posted by quadog at 12:38 AM on January 10, 2008

Many smaller stores still have their pre-ban bags until they run out of stock (or so they say)
I'm a cloth bag guy most of the time anyway, so it was kind of a surprise tonight when coming home buying some soup when I got a plastic bag.

We use plastic bags for throwing away cat litter when its done. I haven't run out yet, which makes me think that there is at least one new bag coming into the house at least once a week.

Besides some joking/complaining the first couple of weeks before the switch, I haven't heard anyone complain since the ban.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:08 AM on January 10, 2008

I hadn't even realized the ban had already gone into effect until just now. I've definitely noticed a lot more reusable bags- in retrospect, way more than I ever remember seeing anywhere. I feel like you see fewer random plastic bags blowing around on the streets. There are still some places that use them, I think smaller stores had a longer time period to absorb the change.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 2:19 AM on January 10, 2008

What exactly is the wording of this bag ban? Is it illegal to possess plastic bags in San Francisco?

How about cling wrap? Squares of that should do just as well for picking up dog poo.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:58 AM on January 10, 2008

I found that rolls of freezer bags (50 per roll for cheap) did the trick very nicely for cleaning up after my dog. Folded up really small and flat in a pocket, too.
posted by The Monkey at 4:29 AM on January 10, 2008

You may well have Ms Hosking of Modbury to thank.
posted by rongorongo at 6:15 AM on January 10, 2008

i didn't know there was a ban in effect. interesting.

as a side note, when i was home to michigan in november, meijer was selling cloth reusable bags for $1. that made me happy as i figured that trend was more of an urban hippy crunchy granola thing (which meijer is not).

so the reusable thing is spreading!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:42 AM on January 10, 2008

I also didn't notice there was any ban in effect, although the supermarkets I go to are displaying reusable cloth bags pretty prominently (for purchase). I've reused plastic bags for years now, so nothing's changed for me, and I can't say that litter levels are noticeably different - SF is a pretty clean town, at least in the areas I go to, so it's hard to say if there's much change.
posted by Quietgal at 7:29 AM on January 10, 2008

I didn't know about the ban, either. I'd like to know how it ends up working out. I hate having plastic bags all over the place and try to recycle them. Then again, they work great for cleaning out the cat box; as others have said, I think the pet owners will be most affected.
posted by misha at 7:47 AM on January 10, 2008

Austin is considering a similar move. The major grocery stores (Whole Foods is based here and already switched) probably won't mind and have been selling -- and people use -- cloth bags for some time. It is the little mom & pop that will have the most problems with this. The city staff are watching SF closely to see how the ban flies.
posted by birdherder at 7:47 AM on January 10, 2008

Here's some background on the bag ban for those who didn't know about it.
posted by jjg at 8:32 AM on January 10, 2008

I think it's working. I've noticed fewer plastic bags floating around on the streets. I myself have purchased three or four of the reusable fabric bags (now I just have to remember to take them to the store). There is no longer a gigantic bag stuffed with smaller plastic bags at my house because I've used up all of the ones I had (I have a dog). I have bought the blue bags for dog poo, that's the only change. (Are the mom and pop stores covered? I thought there was a size requirement. I'll check.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:16 AM on January 10, 2008

I'm internally griping, because the store that I normally shop at has switched to bags without handles (they claim they cannot find handled bags with enough recycled content), and since I walk there, or normally stop in after work and then walk home, it's made going to the store by foot a pain in the ass, unless I want to always have a reusable bag with me, which I am simply not organized enough to have happen. It seems like a major disincentive to go shopping on foot, which seems silly to me. (Yes, I know there are ways around this. I'm just gripe-y about this.)
posted by occhiblu at 1:19 PM on January 10, 2008

Claudiacenter and others: the ban only effects large supermarkets (over 2 million in annual sales) and will be affecting pharmacies with multiple locations in another 4 months--6 months after the original ban went into effect. (I just finished a project on the bag ban for school).

The supermarkets have to switch to biodegradable disposable bags-- that's why many have switched over exclusively to paper--the corn based plastic ones are still comparatively pretty expensive.

Fun SF eco-facts: currently 69% of waste is diverted from landfill (recycled and/or composted) and the city has a goal of being zero-waste, that is 100% landfill diversion, by 2020 and 75% diversion by 2012. The bag ban is one of the many small regs intended to help meet this goal.
posted by paddingtonb at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2008

As an aside note, for those youngsters here who don't remember the pre-plastic era: Do NOT attempt to walk home carrying groceries in paper bags, in the rain!

Interesting about the ban. I've not lived where there are bans, but am used to having to pay for bags. In Germany, I got in the habit of carrying bags. One could pay cheap for the ordinary sort, or pay more for a heavy-duty large reusable plastic bag. Plastic bags have the advantage of folding smaller, to carry in the back pocket, or in a computer bag.
posted by Goofyy at 12:57 AM on January 11, 2008

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