Plastic Bag Makers Challenge San Francisco's Plastic Bag Ban

© Kate Ter Haar

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition challenged San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors decision to expand San Francisco’s plastic bag ban to cover most businesses. Those who brought the lawsuit argued that the City should have first performed an Environmental Impact Review. That may sound odd to TreeHugger readers who have read about the harmful impacts of plastic bags on the environment, especially the aquatic environment. But it will be up to the courts to decide whether the case has merit or whether to dismiss it, as the courts did with a similar case in Manhattan Beach last year.

5 years ago, San Francisco was the first city in the U. S. to pass a plastic bag ban, but it focused at the time only on large grocery stores and pharmacies. Since then, other cities in California, such as San Jose, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, as well as other cities around the world, have enacted polices where fees are charged for using plastic bags. In February of this year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors expanded the ban to include single-use bags at most businesses, including restaurants, but made exceptions for dry cleaners. The ban would also impose a 10-cent fee for any other bag handed out at the checkout stand or takeout counter.

The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a coalition comprised of large-scale manufacturers of plastic bags, has argued that plastic bags are less environmentally harmful than paper bags. The coalition also argued that San Francisco violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), by not performing a full Environmental Impact Review (EIR) before enacting the ban, as well as that San Francisco can't regulate restaurants because of state rules.

Los Angeles County performed an EIR before its ban, and so the coalition decided not to sue them. The City of Fairfax avoided a lawsuit by initiating the ban through a vote on the ballot. In the Manhattan Beach case, the court ruled that smaller cities, like Manhattan Beach, don't need to perform EIRs, but that bigger cities might be considered differently. If the lawsuit is successful, San Francisco’s entire plastic ban law could be invalidated.

Tags: California | Plastic Bags | San Francisco

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