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After Weeks of Delays, SF Finally Lifts Reusable Grocery Shopping Bag Ban

Shoppers will have to load their own groceries and keep bags off surfaces

Whole Foods Market
As of Monday, July 13, grocery bags like these are again legal to use in San Francisco

Weeks after San Francisco officials said they’d lift a ban on reusable grocery shopping bags, that prohibition has finally been reversed. As of Monday, July 13, the city’s Department of the Environment says that grocery stores may again allow shoppers to load their purchases into bags they bring from home.

There have been questions about the dangers of shopping bags since the pandemic began. With San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order on March 16 came a ban on reusable bags, one of many measures intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

In the months since, experts have confirmed and confirmed again that the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is transmitted mainly from person to person, not by a tote bag one got for free after donating to a public radio station. The state of California lifted its ban on tote bags in the third week of June, and counties across the state lifted their bans, as well. But still, as officials told Eater SF at the time, San Francisco’s ban persisted.

On June 26, the SF Chronicle was told that the ban would be “rescinded within days,” but it wasn’t until Friday, July 10 that the city announced via press release that “shoppers will be able to resume using reusable bags.” SF Environment has more details on the lift, saying via Twitter that shoppers who wish to use their own bags must bag their purchases themselves, and must “keep the reusable bags in the shopping cart making sure it doesn’t touch employees or any other surfaces” while in the store.

Of course, folks who prefer to eschew using bags from home may continue to do so, and will be charged 25 cents for each paper or heavy-duty, ostensibly reusable, plastic bag. One San Franciscan happy to save their Washingtons is Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who previously told Eater SF that ban or no, he would be “taking my cloth bag to my stores.” “Starting Monday, SF will lift its ill-advised, anti-science prohibition on reusable bags after months of advocacy from public health officials and environmental advocates,” Peskin tweeted last Friday night. “This is the right result, supported by the best science.”