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SAN FRANCISCO --In its bid to become the first U.S. city to charge consumers a fee for the use of grocery bags, the San Francisco's Commission on the Environment has voted to approve a study to assess the environmental and financial impact of the proposal.
A 17-cent fee would be imposed for every bag -- paper or plastic -- given out to shoppers in supermarkets with more than $2 million in annual sales. An impact study is required before the city can legally institute such a measure. The study is scheduled for release by the end of April.
Environmentalists support the fee as a way to cut down on waste and yearly cleanup costs, but not surprisingly, retailers and other business groups have come out against the measure. Paul A. Smith, v.p. government relations of the California Grocers Association in Sacramento, told Progressive Grocer in November, when the plan first came under consideration, that the fee constituted "an unfair consumer tax aimed at the food industry."
When contacted yesterday by PG, Smith said the development came as "no surprise," but added that his organization looked forward to the study, which he hoped would be fair and would allow grocery industry input. In response to a question about similar measures in other California cities, Smith noted that Los Angeles has assembled a task force to look into the possiblity of imposing a grocery-bag fee, and that the CGA was participating in that task force.
Last year, California lawmakers defeated a bill that would have imposed a two-cent fee on every nonrecyclable disposable bag.
Ireland, South Africa, Bangladesh, Australia, Shanghai, and Taiwan have already begun charging fees for grocery bags.