I would like to thank Supermarket News for its continued coverage of legislative and regulatory issues in California. However, I feel it's important to make a correction and to comment on the article “Retailers Prepare to Cope as Bag Bans Gain Momentum,” SN April 9, Page 22.
In the article it's stated that a new San Francisco ordinance “will require that supermarkets doing more than $2 million in annual sales switch to biodegradable or recyclable bags by the end of the year.” The biodegradable reference is correct. The recyclable reference couldn't be further from the truth. Biodegradable bags are non-recyclable, and when they are mixed with other recyclable plastic film (plastic bags or stretch wrap), they contaminate the waste stream to the extent that brokers and end users will not accept the mixed load.
That leads me to comment on the quote in the article from Jonathan Ziegler, a securities analyst at Dutton Associates. Mr. Ziegler said that the industry should have “been forward-thinking enough to see this coming and come up with its own solution.” He suggests that the industry “[got] caught with its pants down” and “had this legislation shoved down its throat in San Francisco.” If he had bothered to check, he would have learned that the industry implemented one of the most progressive and successful plastic bag reduction, reuse and recycling programs ever attempted by supermarket operators. In 2006 the industry signed a groundbreaking agreement with the City of San Francisco and Mayor Gavin Newsom to reduce the number of carry-out bags used (paper and plastic), provide free or low-cost reusable bags to all customers and set up a citywide plastic bag recycling program.
In one year, the participating companies (Albertsons, Andronicos, Bell Markets, CalMart, Cala Foods, Mollie Stone's Markets and Safeway) reported a reduction of 7.6 million bags used, distributed thousands of reusable bags and recycled tons of plastic bags. The program was so successful that the industry supported statewide plastic bag recycling legislation that will go into effect this July.
Peter J. Larkin
California Grocers Association
Editor's note: Jonathan Ziegler, invited by SN to comment on the letter, said: “Maybe the recycling issue was not as significant when San Francisco proposed a 17-cent-per-bag tax — the implementation of which was avoided by the industry's agreement to promote reduction, reuse and recycling of bags — but anyone driving down the highway can see that plastic bags are blowing all over the landscape, and I think [the industry] should have [earlier] anticipated the issues of conservation, recycling, ecology and being more green, which are not new issues.”