Life in an increasingly fascist city — what San Francisco’s plastic bag ban means

San Francisco’s plastic bag ban went into effect today.  Not only does it ban plastic bags entirely, it also forces people to pay 10 cents for every paper bag they use.  The new rule in the City is bring your own bags or suffer.  All the usual suspects are happy.  What’s interesting is that some of the unusual suspects aren’t happy.  For example, an Arab, probably Palestinian (knowing the neighborhood) shopkeeper:

Across the street at the Eezy Freezy market, owner Al Khalidi is not so pleased about the city’s actions. He said he’s the kind of guy who can’t stand to see someone throw a recyclable into the trash, but believes the city’s law goes too far.

“Do you want a free bag or a 10-cent bag?” he playfully asked a customer, before putting his beer can and soda bottle into a small black plastic bag. Khalidi said he was told by a city worker that he can use plastic bags until he runs out.


Khalidi hasn’t started charging for paper bags just yet. He wonders how people would feel about the ban if they see an old woman’s paper bag break open onto the street on a rainy day.

“It’s not a big deal really,” he said. “But when a plastic bag is a must, I hope I can provide one and not have it turn into a big thing.”

Clearly, Mr.Khalidi has the immigrant’s (or first generation child’s) appreciation for free choice, as well as a proper understanding of the real world consequences of handing over to the government your right to make decisions about the things that directly affect you.

And then there’s the gal who likes the freedom to make her own choices, which include reusable bags, and who thinks everyone should have that same freedom:

At first glance, Denise Snyder seems like someone who would also be supportive of the change. She had three heavy reusable bags strapped on both arms while she waited for the N-Judah near Safeway. But she said people are tired of being nickeled-and-dimed by the city.

“I think it hurts people that can’t afford it,” she said. “I know it’s an ordinance, but there are just too many penalties and fines and fees already.”

The most interesting comment, though, came from one of Mr. Khalidi’s customers.  To me, it perfectly sums up liberal fascism, and explains why a generation of people steeped in public schools and American universities willingly embraces increasing government control over their lives (emphasis mine):

Back inside the Eezy Freezy, regular customer Michael Donk, a limo driver, said he is a strong supporter of the new ordinance.

“I do think it’s a good thing. It’s not about control,” he said. “It’s about reminding us what’s good for us.”

Didn’t Reagan say that the nine scariest words in the English language are “We’re from the government and we’re here to help”?

I’m paying close attention to this, because bag bans are creeping up in Marin. The Safeway in Strawberry is under an ordinance banning plastic bags; the ones in Corte Madera and Novato are not. You can guess which ones gets my custom.

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  • JKB

    What you need is a “reuseable” bag made from some exotic fur pelts.  Or better yet, aborted fetus placenta.  

  • Jose

    I prefer plastic bags simply because they have handles, and I can carry 4 or 5 bags in one hand.
    The handles are immensely helpful when I buy a bottle of soda, a bag of chips, toothpaste, and some fruit.  Each item gets bagged separately, which makes me nuts.  At least with plastic bags I can make it to the kitchen in one trip.  Try that with 4 paper bags.
    Then I use them as trash can liners.  
    BTW, the grocery store I patronize has been out of paper bags.  I guess they’re all going to California.

  • bkivey

    “I do think it’s a good thing. It’s not about control,” he said. “It’s about reminding us what’s good for us.”
    That’s downright terrifying coming from an alleged adult. I’m coming around to the idea that many, perhaps most, people, really don’t want freedom. What they want is childhood with privileges.

  • Charles Martel

    More Voguing from San Francisco, the world capital of Cheap Grace. 

  • merighen

    Problem:  Plastic shopping bags, fast food debris, etc. end up in SF Bay and coastal waters. Cause:  Littering, materials non-recyclable Solutions:  Invariably in SF Bay Area, some kind of top-down solution that creates a bureaucracy and forces everyone to pay for everyone else’s sins. Littering is the visible eyesore and environmental tragedy that results from a significant percentage of the population having no concern for the effect of their actions on other people and the environment.  If people have no sense of personal responsibility for basic clean-up after themselves, how is a paper bag for a dime going to change that mindset? Local governments and communities no longer seek out solutions that stress voluntary action for the good of the whole, pride in one’s community. and personal responsibility in general. 

  • pst314

    “Problem:  Plastic shopping bags, fast food debris, etc. end up in SF Bay and coastal waters.”
    Not very many.

  • merighen

    How many?  I don’t know for sure… while I’m not a fan of all EPA activities, I do think that they are capable of identifying waste found in coastal waters… 

  • Ymarsakar

    A great example of how White Democrats keep their black slaves in check, and all the Republicans are told to keep off the Democrat plantation. And Republicans often times accept that slander.

     Without guns, without American philosophy and independence, blacks will be forever the slaves of the Left. And that’s how the Left likes it.

    If it can happen in my state, Georgia, don’t think it won’t happen in your Blue Devil havens. 

  • Charles Martel

    I think merighen is perceptive in applying a both/and rather than an either/or approach to describing what’s going on here.
    S/he’s right that there is a problem with littering by people who don’t care or want to take the time to properly dispose of their trash, and that the disproportionate, over-reaching response by the city’s power junkies is just as dismaying.
    Part of the problem is the fraying of the sense of community that’s necessary to keep a town or city clean. I remember once shocking a teenager in San Francisco who had loosed one humongous gob of spit on the sidewalk right in front of me. I upbraided him for it. “You wouldn’t spit on the table in your house, why do you spit on your own city?” The look of dismay and total incomprehension on his face was far more memorable than his loogie. Apparently nobody had ever introduced the concept of citizenship to him. 
    The irony is that as the government seizes more power over individuals’ lives, it creates more of the indifference that leads to increased littering. If the decisions about what I eat, what I learn, and what medicines I take can be made by a beneficent government, surely that mighty entity can clean up after me. Just as paying for my freebies is somebody else’s problem, so is picking up my trash.

  • Ymarsakar

    Littering is a problem that can be taken care of by criminals in chain gangs. Except the Democrats will buy their votes with ice cream and medical insurance, so they can’t afford them picking up other people’s liter. Especially MoveOn and OWS’s junk.

     The government that seems the most unwise,
    Oft goodness to the people best supplies;
    That which is meddling, touching everything,
    Will work but ill, and disappointment bring.
    Misery!–happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness!–misery
    lurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come to in the end?
    Shall we then dispense with correction? The (method of) correction
    shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn
    become evil. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed
    subsisted for a long time.
    Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its
    angles); (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness).
    He is straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright,
    but does not dazzle.

    The new sage warrior-philosophers may be made out of squares, but I’ll tell you this. It’ll be a square only for the purpose of having 4 razor blades to cut through evil. Only then, with the blood of the world wreckers, will balance be restored.

  • jj

    I’m of two minds.  I don’t know where Merighen lives, but I live in sight of the water, and close enough that the air we breath is salty and on any day the waves are audible.  If I fall off the edge of the lawn I’m on the beach – should I happen to survive the 100+ foot drop.  We all too often see plastic bags wrapped around gulls, cormorants, eagles and seals.  Birds and animals arrive on the beaches every day in an advanced state of starvation because of the damn things, and every single time they autopsy a sea lion or seal that’s drifted ashore somewhere they find plastic bags wrapped around the animal’s internal organs.  Move a couple of miles inland from the beach, and we have two million acres of national park and national forest.  And there far too many land birds, mountain goats, elk, bears, deer, – everything, really, even horses and cows on the farms – don’t survive encounters with plastic bags, either.
    We’ve been trying for at least my entire life to make people be something other than slobs and a menace to everything around them, and plainly it isn’t working.  It seems you cannot housebreak the animal that lives in houses.  Why this is I don’t know, maybe the human race is the a**holes of the universe; but the simple fact is we can’t.  So, while I deplore governmental overreach, and am fully aware that 98% of what the current government does is in fact an overreach, and something for which they have no constitutional standing, I remain of two minds on this particular issue.  Perhaps we have reached the point every parent eventually reaches: you cannot make the children stop throwing things at each other, so you take away the ammunition and lock it up, or put it someplace where they can’t reach it.
    We cannot successfully separate out the problem children who will not dispose of the plastic bags properly, so we simply take them away from everybody.  Remove the ammunition.  Annoying as this undoubtedly is to those capable of reasonable behavior, that’s a comparatively small group, and the effects of the ban (Seattle’s done it, too) are probably more of a god than a bad thing.  We conquered the wilderness, settled the land, and expanded from sea to shining sea without plastic bags to assist us – we’ll probably be OK.    

  • MacG

    ““I do think it’s a good thing. It’s not about control,” he said. “It’s about reminding us what’s good for us.”

    One of the brilliants here will know this w/o googling but one of the founding fathers said something like this paraphrase  “This kind of Democracy can only work with a self governed moral and religious people”.  So for instance if the Corporations also lived by the  Judeo/Christian command “Love your neighbor as yourself” they would be less likely to harm their neighbors with their waste products, Banks would not engage in usury lendig practices and ‘bundling A+” investments.

    BUt now it seems that we are not a CHristian nation and we need a few humanistic relativism based decision makers deciding for us on our collective behalf.  Hellahluah :/

  • jj

    In the second to last sentence above it should obviously read “more of a good than a bad thing.”  My keyboard has recently begun producing either single “o’s” when I try tor two, or, alternatively, 700 of them.  I need a bigger hammer…

  • PaulScott

    Here in Santa Monica, we passed the plastic bag ban about 8 months ago. There were some grumbles about freedom and such, but eventually, everyone just started bring ing their own cloth bags to the store. It’s really pretty easy, and the cloth bags hold a lot more. I’ve noticed less garbage in the area, too. This is a good ordinance that is good for society. I’m glad my community enacted the ban. 

    Los Angeles passed a similar ban last month. It’s all good. 

  • 11B40


    Admittedly, I’m a “paper in plastic” consumer.  Coming from the Bronx, I like to annoy both sides of any argument. That’s my idea of non-partisanship.  Like “Jose” above, I appreciate the handles on the plastic bags and the uprightness of the paper bags compensates for the way I drive home from the supermarket.  Things staying in the bag without knots having to be tied (and untied) is a good thing. And, as a recovering printer, I like that the paper bag manufacturers are still doing something to hold back all the tree hordes from taking over our planet.

    For me though, and this is primarily due to my Big Sister convincing me to take an Economics minor so that I “might be able to make buck”, I wonder whither goest all those FDR dimes.  Is this another “bottle deposit” now a  nickel and soon a dime so you don’t notice it and with 30 million serfs to make the required contributions there may well be some folding money involved somewhere.  Does anybody out there really understand how that system works, because I sure don’t.

    Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can’t convince Sis to let me buy ten or so thousand plastic bags and a lawn chair so I can camp out a bit in a shady spot outside the supermarket and see if a 5-cent plastic bag market develops. 


  • Old Buckeye

    Might just be a boondoggle to help the medical community OR a plan to kill more of us off quicker. Did you hear or read that using non-disposable bags has been linked to more outbreaks of salmonella and other food-borne disease because the reusable bags aren’t often washed, so they harbor the germs from food carried in them?

  • merighen

    JJ and Charles: thanks for your thoughtful comments.  I personally can do without plastic bags, particularly since they don’t degrade for several generations and can’t be recycled in the way that paper bags (for instance) can.

    Dog feces left behind and dogs off leash in areas where leashes are required strike me also as being part of the same “not my responsibility” mentality.  I live east of the Caldecott, and highways, intersections near service areas (fast food and convenience stores) are true eyesores.  And unfortunately litter attracts more litter; a little litter inspires a garbage dump over time.

    This spring, Contra Costa voters were asked to tax themselves to fund government agency efforts to reduce the amount of litter flowing to the Bay.  The tax was defeated… it was not because the majority prefer to dump plastic bags and other junk into the Bay, but because the process was so flawed.

    If any of you are interested, more info is available at . 

  • Charles Martel

    I agree with others here who say that banning the bags isn’t going to end the world. Besides helping with the litter problem, I’m with jj on the issue of removing a threat to wildlife.  
    My real concern is that this is the first of a two-fer, where paper bags will be banned to save our precious forests (I can’t think of any other reason for doing so). The push is on by the busybodies to make us all bring our own bags—preferably made by Quechua women in the Andes out of fair-trade hemp. As Old Buckeye points out above, the perpetual bane of the Enlightened Ones, unintended consequences in the form of bacterial build-ups in cloth bags, is rearing its who-knew-that-reality-can-be-such-a-bitch? face.
    The backfire will come from all the extra use of hot water and detergents to keep the damned things clean. To reinforce proper behavior and save resources, though, there will probably be ordinances banning anything but cold-water washes and mandating the use of detergents that do not excessively suds up.
    Me? I’ll be dusting off my old Radio Flyer and using cardboard inserts from wine cases to compartmentalize what I roll home from the grocery store.

  • Michael Adams

    I like the cloth bags well enough, and separate the meat from the vegetable, so salmonella is not such a problem. However, I am outvoted in my house, two to one, by the women, who want the plastic bags to hold the cat poop.
    As for the issue raised by Chuck, the water and energy used to wash a bag is as naught beside the water used to make paper.  Anyone who  has lived in the South, or in other places where paper mills are near by, knows about the water and the pollution involved in paper making.
    However, Austin (AKA Berkley on the Colorado) has a new bag ban to take effect next March.  Bag usage was down, as stores reminded folks to bring their own and save the…something or other.  The stores sell reusable bags, pretty cheaply, too. Education seems always preferable to coercion, and the former builds community, while the latter destroys it.  Ach! Whatta you gonna do?

  • Earl

    Plastic bags ARE recycled….into faux-wood deck boards, at the very least.  Every store I shop in here in Chico has a big container out front to collect used plastic bags.
    I’m pretty sure that paper bags aren’t made of virgin wood pulp, so their recyclability is doubtful. 
    I have a bunch of re-usable bags in the car, and try hard to remember to take them in whenever I shop.  I’m a failure at that, though – I often forget. 
    I’ve got cloth bags and plastic-surfaced ones….I like the latter best because they’re so much easier to clean – wipe with Clorox wipes.
    I figure that the dumb-a**es who can’t be bothered to deal properly with single-use plastic bags are the very ones who don’t bother to wash their re-usable bags, so the salmonella “problem” may simply be Charles Darwin’s hypothesis at work!

  • Mike Devx

    live free or die

  • Libby

    What will pet owners use to dispose of their dog’s droppings now that plastic bags have been banned?

  • Old Buckeye

    Next thing you know, the government will have to be purchasing reusable bags for everyone who can’t afford to buy them….

  • Ymarsakar

    They will bring you Hell on Earth and call it good, for that was all they had intended.

  • Ron19

    Just the two of us, we usually wind up with about 10 grocery bags a week.  That would be about a washerload of the cloth bags I have seen people bringing on thier own.