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San Francisco Ponders Grocery Bag Tax

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January 26, 2005

The City of San Francisco is considering whether to place a 17-cent tax on plastic and paper bags at the city's grocery stores. The idea is to promote recycling of such grocery bags and also the use of reusable cloth bags.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the issue on Tuesday, February 1. If they vote to approve the tax, it would not take effect likely for another year, pending an economic impact study and a city legislative review.

Scientists contend that plastic bags are rarely recycled and that paper bags require trees numbering in the millions nationwide.

The 17-cent figure is based on a city estimate of how much it costs to clean up and dispose of the thousands of plastic bags that are left on city streets each year. A full 90 percent of the grocery bags at stores in San Francisco are plastic.

Ireland currently charges grocery stores customers 15 cents for each new plastic or paper bag. Other countries that have grocery-bag taxes include Australia, Bangladesh, and Taiwan.

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