SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to become the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets to help promote recycling.
Under the legislation, beginning in six months large supermarkets and drugstores will not be allowed to offer plastic bags made from petroleum products.
"Many [foreign] cities and nations have already implemented very similar legislation," said Ross Mirkarimi, the city legislator who championed the new law. "It's astounding that San Francisco would be the first U.S. city to follow suit."
"I am hopeful that other U.S. cities will also adopt similar legislation," he said. "Why wait for the federal government to enact legislation that gets to the core of this problem when local governments can just step up to the plate?"
The city's Department of the Environment said San Francisco uses 181 million plastic grocery bags annually. Plans dating back a decade to encourage recycling of the bags have largely failed, with shoppers returning just one percent of bags, said department spokesman Mark Westland.
Mirkarimi said the ban would save 450,000 gallons of oil a year and remove the need to send 1,400 tons of debris now sent annually to landfills. The new rules would, however, allow recyclable plastic bags, which are not widely used today.
A spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who must approve or veto the legislation, called it sensible. "Chances are good that he is going to sign it," said Nathan Ballard.