City, Bag Alliance unveil ad campaign to reduce use of checkout bags

(May 10, 2006)


Grocery stores ramp up bag reduction, recycling efforts to meet 10-million reduction target

San Francisco, CA – In a concerted effort to reduce the number of checkout bags used in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi acknowledged representatives of the Progressive Bag Alliance and Bay Area grocery stores who unveiled a new public service advertising campaign, and reviewed methods individual stores are using to reduce bag distribution and increase recycling. Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment, joined industry representatives for the unveiling at the Safeway store at 4th Street and King.

Last November, the Mayor and area stores initiated a public-private waste reduction agreement, the first of its kind in the nation, which calls for significant reduction of grocery checkout bag use. Working in conjunction with city government, supermarkets operated by Albertsons, Andronico's Market, Bell Markets, Cal-Mart Supermarket, Cala Foods, Foods Co., Mollie Stone's Market, and Safeway Inc. have set a reduction target of 10,000,000 checkout bags by the end of 2006.

"San Francisco is a global environmental leader, and by working with partners in the private sector we are moving towards the reduced use of disposable items such as store checkout bags," said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The Commission on the Environment first looked at the issue of grocery checkout bag reduction in San Francisco in late 2004. Subsequently, Mayor Newsom and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi co-sponsored a resolution focusing on reduction measures, and have worked together with industry to craft the voluntary reduction agreement.

"San Francisco's grocery stores and the Progressive Bag Alliance appear to be taking reasonable steps to meet the agreed upon goal of 10 million fewer checkout bags," observed Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, "but the real proof of the matter will come at the end of the year when we review the numbers and verify the reduction."

The ad campaign, created and funded by the Progressive Bag Alliance depicts a 1950s-era man and woman clad in garments made out of plastic checkout bags, with the caption: "Checkout bags: get more out of them." The light-hearted ads encourage customers to ask for fewer bags, reuse them, and ultimately recycle them at an in-store recycling collection center.

"Checkout bags are quite simply stronger than you'd think," said Leon Fahranik, Chair of the Progressive Bag Alliance and President of Hilex Poly, the world's largest manufacturer of plastic checkout bags. "Most often you don't need to double-bag your groceriesGrocery stores ramp up bag reduction, recycling efforts to meet 10-million reduction targetand after you've brought a checkout bag into your home, you can use it as a garbage bag, or to carry wet towels after a trip to the beach. Also, both the Progressive Bag Alliance and Hilex Poly are putting considerable resources into making plastic bags easier to recycle, and look forward to continuing our cooperation with San Francisco on this issue."

In addition to the public service advertising campaign, the partnership is made possible by local grocery stores' willingness to pursue innovative measures to reduce consumption and disposal of checkout bags, as well as the City's willingness to work with local stores in a cooperative measure. Grocery stores that are party to the reduction agreement are implementing such measures as retraining baggers to put more items in each bag, and not to automatically double bag items, as well as making low-priced reusable bags available to customers, and offering more recycling drop-off locations.

"The grocery industry is committed to doing its part for the environment," said Peter Larkin, President of the California Grocers Association. "To be successful, we need every customer to share our values and join us in our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle checkout bags."

The target reduction of 10 million bags may represent up to twenty percent of the total bags distributed in San Francisco on an annual basisGrocery stores ramp up bag reduction, recycling efforts to meet 10-million reduction targetthe exact figure of bags used annually will be captured through monitoring by the city. A reduction of 10 million bags will keep 95 tons of material plastic out of San Francisco's waste stream, and will reduce San Francisco's contribution of greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 1 million pounds of CO2. This is equivalent to 44,000 gallons of oil or taking more than 14,000 automobiles off the road for a day.


Department of the Environment

City and County of San Francisco

11 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Telephone: (415) 355-3700 | Fax: (415) 554-6393

Email: |