(They're also banning smoking in many outdoor places.)
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- City officials are considering a proposal to slap a 17-cent surcharge on paper or plastic shopping bags, a debate sure to be watched as a bellwether for other communities.
While no other U.S. city imposes a shopping bag tax, such a strategy has been successfully employed in the nations of Ireland, South Africa, Bangladesh, Australia and Taiwan.
If approved by the city's Board of Supervisors, the fee would apply only to grocery stores that report more than $2 million in annual sales. Other stores could eventually be targeted.
Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced a resolution Tuesday requesting a more detailed study on how much the city pays to collect and dispose of paper and plastic sacks.
Such a study is required before the city can legally impose the fee, and the research will help determine the precise charge, Mirkarimi said. The study should be published by April 30.
Environmentalists say plastic bags jam machinery, pollute waterways, suffocate wildlife and often end up as eyesores in trees or bushes. San Francisco shoppers bring home about 50 million bags each year, according to an environmental study.
Grocers, bag manufacturers and trade groups say many people already reuse their plastic bags. Other opponents call the plan an unfair and regressive tax on shoppers.
During a meeting Tuesday evening of San Francisco's Commission on the Environment, a stream of residents -- many toting canvas bags -- expressed their support for the tax proposal.
"As consumers, we need to think outside the bag," said Jim Rhoads of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, one of several residents who praised the commission.