Plastic Bags Out in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO -- Supermarkets and other retail businesses here doing more than $2 million in annual sales will have to switch to biodegradable or recyclable bags in place of the plastic bags they currently offer within six months under an ordinance passed 10-1 by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Supermarkets and other retail businesses here doing more than $2 million in annual sales will have to switch to biodegradable or recyclable bags in place of the plastic bags they currently offer within six months under an ordinance passed 10-1 by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Those who fail to comply will face fines of up to $500 per violation. The new law requires retailers to use bags that are reusable or made of recyclable paper or plastic that can be composted. According to published reports, biodegradable bags -- made from materials such as potato starch -- cost 4 to 8 cents each, compared with a penny each for plastic bags and 5 cents apiece for paper, though observers said they expect the price of biodegradable bags could drop with increased usage. Supermarkets here avoided a proposed 17-cent tax on every plastic bag in 2005 when they agreed to reduce bag usage; however, supervisors deemed the reduction fell short of the mark and proposed the new ordinance. -- Elliot Zwiebach