plastic bag pile

San Francisco Plastic Bag Ban OK

San Francisco’s 2010 ban on use of plastic bags by retailers and food establishments has been upheld by a state appeals court over the objections of a coalition of plastic bag makers.

The First District Court of Appeal upheld the 2010 expansion of an existing plastic bag reduction ordinance in San Francisco in a published opinion issued Friday.  (The panel initially issued a non-precedential order on Dec. 10, but reissued it Friday as a precedent-setting decision.)

The original law limited use of the bags to compostable plastic, recyclable paper or reusable checkout bags at large supermarkets and retail pharmacies in the city.

By 2010 it was expanded to apply to all retailers and food businesses in the city.  Customers would be charged for checkout bags.  The city said the program was exempt from California Environmental Quality Act requirements as a program intended to protect natural resources.

The coalition argued that plastic bag bans are “worse for the environment” because it targets one problem by creating a worse problem, more use of paper bags.

The bag makers challenged that assumption, saying it violated CEQA.  They also argued the law was preempted by the Retail Food Code, but the trial court rejected the claims in June 2012.  The appeals court agreed.

It found the city ordinance came within exemptions to CEQA.  It rejected arguments that the law would be undermined by tourists coming to San Francisco using plastic bags or than paper and compostable bags are worse for the environment.

The arguments by the coalition are similar to those it made unsuccessfully in a challenge to a plastic bag ban in Manhattan Beach.

Case:  Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of San Francisco, No. A137056



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