San Francisco Grocery Stores and Plastic Bags

I went into my (very non-grub) Mollie Stone’s over the weekend and as my purchase was loaded into its plastic bag (without any hint of the old “Paper or Plastic?” option), I asked when they’d be transitioning to paper bags. The checker gave me a date in late November 2007.

My Google skills must suck as I can’t find much other information on when major grocery chains are supposed to uphold the ban. But I did find an interesting article at Sam Spade’s San Francisco. He makes a few observations about Safeway (boo hiss, it plays the role of corporate meanie in this post), and other grocery stores. If what he says is valid, why not take an extra moment to ask for paper (or use a bag?):

Most major supermarkets have reduced their supplies of paper bags. They are doing everything they can to push plastic on us. For example, have you asked for paper bags at Safeway. Half the time they tell you they are out of paper bags, which is a bold faced lie. The rest of the time they ignore you and start stuffing your groceries in plastic bags, hoping you’ll not notice and not object. Safeway wants you to be compliant, obedient clone-customers.

Don’t let them lead you around by the nose … demand paper bags (be sure to ask BEFORE you pay the bill) and tell them to switch to non-petroleum-based biodegradable bags.

But what does the data say about plastic bag use in San Francisco? It boils down to politics, my friend, if you want to believe Sam Spade:

In November 2005, Mayor Newsom worked with the supermarkets to create a voluntary Plastic Bag Reduction Plan to eliminate 10 million bags and increase in-store recycling. Not only did the markets fail to meet these goals, they lobbied for a state bill that now prohibits San Francisco from auditing or taxing plastic bags. Safeway was one of the major contributors!

If you’re conscientious enough to bring your own bags to the grocery store, you’re one step ahead of the game. If you like to just be contrarian and annoy the corporate wonks, try to ask for paper before they’ve bagged your groceries. Or to be a real green jerk, have them start bagging things in plastic, look aghast, and say, “Er, no, I want those in paper, please.”

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