San Francisco supervisors have proposed raising the fee merchants charge customers for bags up to 25 cents from the current 10 cents. (Photo by kahawkinson/Pixabay)

The bag fee at San Francisco stores could soon increase from a dime to a quarter as part of an effort to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee has approved a proposal to raise the cost of plastic and paper checkout bags to 25 cents from 10 cents. The full Board of Supervisors will next give the proposal a vote.

The legislation also includes a requirement that stores provide compostable or recyclable pre-checkout bags, like those available in produce and bulk sections at grocery stores.

Supervisor Vallie Brown, who sponsored the ordinance, wants the city to model zero waste production, saying, “We need to lead the country again. We need to make refuse the new recycle.”

In 2012, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors implemented a 10-cent fee on paper bags and plastic checkout bags. Then, two years later, the state banned single-use plastic checkout bags outright, but allowed retailers to continue supplying reusable bags made of paper and thicker plastic, the city’s Department of the Environment explained in a presentation.

However, many people are not reusing the plastic bags they receive, according to the department.

In their presentation, a department official cited a report from the city of Santa Cruz that 90 percent of customers were shopping with bags brought from home after the city raised its bag fee from 10 cents to 25 cents in 2014.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, said he was concerned that the fee would affect residents disproportionately.

“I take your word that there’s been a sense from some of these other places that increasing the amount paid has made a difference, but I don’t see that in hard numbers,” Haney said. “Where has there been a behavior change, and for whom?”

The department official responded that tote bags would be distributed in low-income areas to address the disparate impact of the fee, and said further research would be conducted before the raise is implemented, should it be approved.