Starting tomorrow, large San Francisco grocers must only use compostable plastic bags or recyclable paper paper bags as part of an ordinance passed in March that aims to reduce the amount of deadly plastic marine debris pollution entering the bay environment. Plastic bags are particularly harmful to wildlife because the are easily transported by the wind and can cause starvation and death if eaten by birds, turtles and other marine wildlife.
Wyatt Buchanan of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that millions of bags are littered every year in San Francisco:
The 180 million plastic bags city officials estimate are handed out in the city each year end up as litter on city streets, clog storm drains, harm wildlife, and contaminate and jam machines used in recycling, [SF Environment worker Jack] Macy said. And then there is the giant patch of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean that scientists are monitoring, estimated to weigh 3 million tons and cover an area twice the size of Texas. The patch is about 1,000 miles west of San Francisco, but plastic dumped in the ocean here can end up there.
The California cities of Oakland and Fairfax have also passed plastic bag bans, however their ordinances are now caught up in a legal battle with a consortium of plastic bag manufacturers that have sued to block implementation of the bans. Other California municipalities that would like to ban plastic bags are watching these cases carefully.
CAW and Plastic Bags: