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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Plastic Bag Restrictions in S.F. Upheld on Appeal

(CN) - San Francisco can restrict the use of plastic bags at grocery store checkout aisles, a California appeals court ruled, shooting down industry boosters.

The Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance passed by the city of San Francisco passed in 2007 required grocery stores to use "compostable plastic, recyclable paper and/or reusable checkout bags."

In 2010, the city decided to extend the restrictions on plastic bags from large supermarkets and pharmacy chains to all retailers and food establishments.

The expanded ordinance also established a community outreach program to encourage the use of reusable bags and called for retailers to charge 10 cents for checkout bags.

During a public hearing before the ordinance was passed, a lawyer from the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition vowed that his group would fight the change in court.

San Francisco ultimately passed the ordinance after eliminating a plan to increase the checkout-bag charge to 25 cents.

The coalition's lawsuit alleged a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act and pre-emption under the Retail Food Code.

This winter a three-judge panel of California's First Appellate District affirmed a judge's decision to deny the coalition either a writ of mandamus or an injunction. The court certified the Dec. 10 decision for publication Friday.

"The coalition's theory is that the 2012 ordinance will increase the use of single-use paper and compostable bags without decreasing the use of reusable bags at all because tourists and commuters will 'almost never' bring their own reusable bags to the city and even if they do, they are likely to underuse them before throwing them away, which is bad for the environment," Justice Paul Haerle wrote for the panel.

"The coalition has failed to cite any evidence in the record to support their factual claim that tourists and commuters will who visit San Francisco will undermine the environmental impact goals of the 2012 ordinance. Instead, they rely solely on arguments that were made by coalition attorneys during the administrative proceedings. Thus, we summarily reject this unsupported theory."

Haerle also found no violation of the Retail Food Code because the ordinance does not deal with "food contamination, purity, cleanliness, spoilage or any topic connected to the express field of the (Retail Food Code)."

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