San Francisco Plastic Bag Policy – Emily Utter

 February 8, 2012

 Yesterday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of expanding San Francisco’s existing ban on plastic bags.  Though San Francisco was the first city in the nation to ban plastic bags in 2007, the city had fallen behind it’s neighbors in recent years as other jurisdictions throughout the Bay Area and California passed broader legislation that both banned plastic bags, and placed a charge on recycled-content paper bags.

 Not to be outdone, San Francisco amended the existing legislation by expanding the current ban to all retailers and restaurants within the city.  San Francisco is the first city in the nation to address restaurants. 

 As Bag It Town’s policy director, this was especially sweet, as I’ve been working on San Francisco’s policies to limit single-use bags since I was an associate with the City’s Environment Department in 2004.  Over the past several months I met with other local activists from our friends at, Surfrider Foundation, Save the Bay, and others.  Together we lobbied the members of the Board of Supervisors, aimed to allay their concerns, and provided information that would help them understand the nuances of the legislation.

 This expanded, bigger, better, bag ban will go into effect October 2012.  How it works:


  • All retailers will be required to provide certified compostable bags and/or recycled content paper bags
  • Reusable bags and paper bags must have a minimum charge of 10 cents to cover the cost of the bags to retailers.  Retailers maintain the charge. 
  • All restaurants must provide compostable bags or paper bags for to-go orders.  These paper bags will also carry a 10 cent charge.  There is no fee for “doggy bags”
  • The legislation exempts a charge on bags for anything that is a health and safety or practicality issue, such as meat, bulk foods, bagged hardware items like nails, or small food items from bakeries such as cookies or croissants. 

 Based on results seen in Washington, DC, LA County, and other cities that have implemented similar legislation, San Francisco can count on a reduction of single-use bags of up to 90%.  All of us at Bag It eagerly await the implementation of this ordinance.  We’d also like to thank the entire San Francisco Board of Supervisors for their support, as well as Mayor Ed Lee for his support.

 Check out some local news stories:

-Emily Utter


About bagitmovie

Bag It is a documentary film following the world wide use of plastic bags, plastic's impact on the environment and human health.
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One Response to San Francisco Plastic Bag Policy – Emily Utter

  1. kerribag says:

    All good news and if you are looking for really good reusable grocery shopping bags, look no further!
    Saving 4-5 plastic bags per use!

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