Plastic bag ban extends to pharmacies

May 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Francisco's first-in-the-nation ban on plastic bags broadens Tuesday from large supermarkets to chain pharmacies, in an environmental initiative that has prompted interest from other municipalities far and wide, a Department of the Environment spokesperson said today.

"It's certainly captured a lot of attention," said department spokesman Mark Westlund.

Westlund said that since the ban was approved by the city in 2007, he has received phone calls inquiring about the details of San Francisco's program from city and county governments throughout the West Coast, as well as East Coast and Midwestern municipalities.

Just today, Westlund said he fielded calls from officials in Louisiana, Connecticut and Maui.

The ordinance went into effect in November, banning supermarket and pharmacy chains from giving customers non-biodegradable plastic bags.

The stores can now only offer recyclable paper bags, reusable bags, or compostable "bio-plastic" bags made of corn or potato starch.

Enforcement for approximately 50 supermarkets in San Francisco began in December, while bans on pharmacies operating five or more locations in the city, including Walgreens, Longs and Rite Aid, will begin being enforced Tuesday.

However, according to Westlund, don't expect any offending drug stores to be immediately slapped with $100 fines. Rather, he said, his agency first will attempt to convince stores to phase out the bags.

"At this point, we're going to try to work with people to make sure they're doing the right thing," Westlund said. "We're not going to be writing tickets tomorrow."

A similar plastic bag ban approved by the Oakland City Council in July was held up this April by a judge's injunction, citing the need for a full environmental review of the plan.


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