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SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Grocers Association (CGA) said thirty-two supermarkets here used 7.6 million fewer plastic grocery bags in 2006 than in 2005, according to published reports.
San Francisco's City Hall and the grocers agreed two years ago to try to lower by 10 million the number of plastic bags used in 2006. The bags are generally regarded as bad for the environment.
"These numbers underscore how successful it was," CGA president Peter Larkin told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We think the companies that participated should be applauded for what they have done."
However, the city has hired an independent consulting firm to check the numbers. Said Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment, said "I have no idea if that 7.6 million number is real. It could be 3 million or 11 million."
The association didn't reveal the total number of bags used at the 32 stores, since the markets consider such information to be a trade secret.
The figures reported by the CGA fell short of the original goal by 2.4 million bags. According to Larkin, all 57 supermarkets in the city were slated to take part in the initiative, but some stores went out of business and others declined to sign the voluntary agreement, so only 32 stores actually participated.
Last year the CGA successfully lobbied for a state law banning cities from passing ordinances to mandate the counting of grocery bags or levying a tax on them.
Larkin said San Francisco should implement a system to recycle grocery bags and should require other merchants, such as drug stores, dry cleaners, and takeout restaurants, to cut down on their plastic bag use as well.