Almost five years ago, San Francisco became the first American city to ban plastic shopping bags from supermarkets and chain pharmacies. Now the city is poised to expand that ban to all retail stores and restaurants within the city limits. Only certain products, like newspapers, fish, poultry, fresh flowers, and bulk goods are exempted from the ban. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to expand the ban, and it’s expected to be officially approved next week.

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Every year, roughly 100 billion plastic shopping bags are handed out in the US, and only a tiny fraction of them are recycled. The rest of them end up in landfills, where they take about 1,000 years to break down, or they blow away and are reduced to tiny plastic particles in the oceans and on land. Plastic bag bans are a way to combat that cycle by encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.

When San Francisco passed its initial plastic bag ban in 2007, it was groundbreaking. But since then several other American cities, including Portland, Seattle, and San Jose have all banned plastic bags, and Austin and Los Angeles are currently mulling similar bans. In San Francisco, the new rules, which are set to take effect in October, don’t apply to just plastic; a 10-cent fee will be placed on all other types of bags (we’re looking at you, paper) handed out at checkout.

Via AP and SF Chronicle

Lead photo by Flickr user halflifehalflived

Second photo by Flickr user eflon