SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco took another step toward becoming the first U.S. city to ban plastic grocery bags Thursday, after a legislative committee indicated it was likely to endorse the measure.
The three-member committee of the city Board of Supervisors was forced to postpone voting on the environmentally friendly legislation after two members amended it to apply to pharmacies with five or more retail stores in addition to grocery stores.
But the two supervisors who approved the amendments said they would vote on Tuesday to send it on to the full board, where eight of the 11 members have signed on as co-sponsors of the bag ban.
If passed, the law would require supermarkets and large drug stores to offer customers only bags made of recyclable paper, plastic that can be turned into compost or sturdy cloth or plastic that can be reused.
Supervisor Ed Jew, the only committee member who opposed it, said he thinks the groundbreaking bill would amount to a tax on San Francisco residents because paper and biodegradable sacks are more expensive than plastic bags and stores would pass that cost on to shoppers.
"Many of the people in my district can't believe we are spending so much time talking about plastic bags and grocery bags, that issues like crime and homelessness need to be addressed," Jew said.
Most of the people who testified at Thursday's meeting said they would gladly pay a few cents more to protect the environment. Plastic bags are often blamed for littering streets, choking marine life and contributing to global warming because they are made out of a petroleum byproduct.