Paper or plastic; new ban highlights eco-concerns | SierraSun.com

Paper or plastic; new ban highlights eco-concerns

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun

A new law approved by San Francisco supervisors will ban the use of plastic grocery bags ” the first prohibition of its kind for a U.S. city ” and highlights local recycling regulations.

Truckee markets may eventually follow suit, with a new state law poised to take effect in July mandating the recycling of the ubiquitous shopping bags. Other Tahoe area stores aren’t waiting for new regulations.

San Francisco lawmakers endorsed a ban on plastic bags last week after intense lobbying from environmentalists and a supermarket trade group. If signed into law, the ban would require large grocery stores and drug stores to offer customers paper bags that can be recycled, plastic bags that can be turned into compost, or reusable cloth bags, offering more choices to the familiar checkout question, “Paper or plastic?”

“Hopefully, other cities and states will follow suit,” said San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who was involved in writing the plastic bag ban.

The ban’s aim is to improve the environment by protecting wildlife from choking on the bags and keep the petroleum-based sacks from littering the streets.

Effective in July, a new California law will require large grocery retailers and chain drug stores to provide recycling bins at all store locations for customers to recycle plastic grocery bags. The new law also requires stores to transport the collected materials to local recycling facilities, said Kristin Power, vice president of government relations with the California Grocers Association. Small retail stores may voluntarily comply with the recycling law, but it is not a requirement, Power said.

New Moon Natural Foods uses strictly paper or reusable name-brand cloth bags, costing $5 each, to bag its groceries for customers, said Tony Basile, manager of New Moon Natural Foods in Tahoe City.

“It’s in line with the philosophy that plastic is not good for the Earth,” Basile said. “We have a really environmentally conscious clientele.”

About half of the bags the store uses everyday are recycled bags brought by customers, Basil said.

Most major grocery retailers already provide reusable bags.

At the Safeway store in Truckee, everything is bagged in plastic, said store manager Bob Kleidosty. In abiding with the new law in San Francisco, stores are now offering customers cloth bags, he said, but cloth bags are not yet available at the Truckee store.

The California Grocers Association has concerns about a potential recycling snafu related to the plastic bag ban, Power said. There is a possibility of contamination that might “eliminate our own environmental gain” of the new law, Power said.

Compostable plastic bags cannot be mixed with other plastic bags because recycling facilities aren’t able to differentiate between the two. And most consumers won’t be able to tell the difference either, she said.

Using San Francisco as the example, local jurisdictions should examine recycling options within their communities to best address local issues, Power said.

” The Associated Press contributed to this article.