San Francisco's groundbreaking ban on supermarket plastic bags went into effect Nov. 20, but legislative efforts in other cities are not proving to be as successful.
The Annapolis, Md., City Council rejected a proposed ban on plastic and compostable plastic bags Nov. 19. In its place, three council members and Mayor Ellen Moyer introduced a bill that would establish a committee to review what environmentally friendly initiatives and policies the city should adopt, as opposed to focusing on just one issue.
The new Annapolis proposal also calls for the city to provide reusable bags to residents and to evaluate how that affects the impact of plastic bags on the environment.
The failure of the Annapolis plastic bag ban comes on the heels of decisions last month by New York and Philadelphia to switch their focus from plastic bag bans to recycling initiatives, and the choice in late October by city officials in Fairfax, Calif., to make its ban on noncompostable plastic bags voluntary in the face of an industry lawsuit.
In addition, Phoenix - which had been considering a ban - kicked off an in-store recycling program Nov. 9 in an effort to reduce the estimated 300,000 plastic bags used in the city annually.
A plastic bag ban in Oakland, Calif. - which was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 18 - has been challenged in court by the Coalition to Support Plastic Bag Recycling, which includes two members of the Progressive Bag Alliance, a group that represents several plastic bag manufacturers.
The San Francisco law bans petroleum-based plastic shopping bags for retailers with sales of more than $2 million. Retailers can only provide compostable plastic bags or paper bags with at least 40 percent recycled content. Retailers will also be required to offer for sale reusable bags, typically made from canvas. The ordinance goes into effect for large pharmacies in six months. City officials estimate that residents there use 180 million plastic bags annually.
Environmentalists argue plastic bags harm fish and birds in the ocean, while the plastics industry contends alternatives to plastic bags are not necessarily better for the environment.
``While we recognize the efforts of the San Francisco community to protect our environment, we would like to caution municipalities across the state from similar actions that could contribute to the resulting unintended negative environmental impacts,'' PBA said in a statement issued Nov. 19.
``Plastic bag bans will lead to an increased use of paper bags,'' said PBA, noting plastic bags use 40 percent less energy to produce and generate 80 percent less solid waste than paper. In addition, PBA contends the manufacture of paper bags ``generates 50 times more water pollutants'' than the manufacture of plastic bags.