Under the ban, which now awaits a rubber stamp from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson, large supermarkets and drugstores will not be able to offer customers oil-based plastic carrier bags.
'I am hopeful that other US cities will also adopt similar legislation,' said Ross Mirkarimi, the council official who has pushed the new law forward. 'Why wait for the federal government to enact legislation that gets to the core of this problem when local governments can just step up to the plate?'
Although San Francisco has operated plastic bag recycling schemes for some years, they have been largely ineffective, with consumers returning just one per cent of their bags for recycling. The city currently uses 181 million bags annually.
The new ban is predicted to save 450,000 gallons of oil every year, and save 1,400 tons of additional landfill waste.
The law will permit the use of 'degradable', corn-based plastic bags, although there are concerns that these do not effectively biodegrade when buried in a landfill site.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2007