Plastic Bag Ban Triggers Lawsuit And San Francisco Expands Ban on the Distribution of Plastic Bags

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plastic-bag-putah

We often think politics are contentious here. It is not that they are not contentious, but sometimes we lose perspective that Davis and Yolo County are not nearly as unique as we think they are.

Opponents of the plastic bag ban have treated this as though it were a novel idea perpetrated in weird Davis when in fact, if anything, Davis is behind a trend that will ultimately see the elimination of the use of plastic bags – it is really only a matter of time.

However, in the interim this figures to be a heated issue.  As we have previously reported, San Luis Obispo County has beaten Davis to the punch with their Integrated Waste Management Authority, enacting a plastic bag ban by an 8-5 vote.

Now an attorney, Stephen Joseph, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition” – you really cannot make this stuff up.

He is arguing that the Waste Management Authority did not complete an environmental impact report, as the suit says they are at the least required to do.

“The board adopted the ban Jan. 11 after a heated four-hour meeting at which scores of people testified pro or con. Hundreds of others also made their feelings known through letters, phone calls, emails and personal contact,” the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports.  “Under the terms of the joint-powers agreement that created the waste management authority, the 13-member board needed eight votes to approve or reject the ordinance. It received eight in favor.”

A report in that local paper notes that in 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban the free distribution of plastic bags, but other cities and counties have since followed suit with Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Jose, Los Angeles County, Washington, D.C., Santa Monica, Long Beach, Carpinteria and Fairfax having enacted some form of ban or limitation on the use of plastic bags.

The report also notes that the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition,” which is apparently not just limited to San Luis Obispo County, has also filed suits against Marin and Santa Cruz counties and the cities of Manhattan Beach and Long Beach.

They also note: “Environmental groups have accused the coalition and Joseph of being fronts for the plastics industry, which Joseph has denied.”

Mr. Joseph characterizes the coalition formed in 2007, as a non-profit environmental organization.  Though he does acknowledge in one document found on his website, “Save The Plastic Bag Coalition (‘STPB’) was formed in 2008. STPB’s membership includes (but is not limited to) companies and individuals engaged in the manufacture and distribution of plastic carryout bags and polyethylene reusable bags. Our membership includes Command Packaging and Crown Poly. They manufacture plastic carryout bags and polyethylene reusable bags that are marketed, sold, and distributed in San Francisco, including but not limited to plastic carryout bags provided to consumers by supermarkets, grocery stores, and food establishments (including but not limited to restaurants) in San Francisco.”

Their website makes note of numerous lawsuits that they have taken part in.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, San Francisco approved plans to expand their plastic bag ban.

Shoppers in San Francisco will have to pay 10 cents per bag and more retailers are now banned from handing out plastic bags under a proposal approved Tuesday by the city’s Board of Supervisors.

The City already banned large grocery stores and pharmacies from using plastic bags, and the new proposal extends that ban to restaurants and to gift shops, hardware stores, boutiques and other retailers.

The 10-cent charge would apply to any type of bag, such as paper, that stores give customers at the checkout counter. The stores would keep the money, the Associated Press reported.

“The intent was never to nickel or dime anybody,” Mayor Ed Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday. “But if it takes 10 cents to remind somebody that their habits are in their control, I think that’s something we’re willing to consider doing.”

Opponents such as Save the Plastic Bag Coalition argue that plastic retail bags are a tiny percentage of all litter in San Francisco.  They cite a May 2007 City of San Francisco Litter Survey Report that found that “plastic non-retail bags were 1.9% of total large litter and plastic retail bags were only 0.6% of total large litter.”

They argue, “The solution to litter is to pick it up. In many parts of the San Francisco, the city does not pick up litter at all. Residents and business should be protesting vociferously about the state of city streets. There is also a lack of litterbins and overflowing litterbins.”

They argue: “You cannot ban your way out of a litter problem.  That is a false solution.”

The proposal, which would go into effect in October, has the backing of major portions of the business community, with support from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Association and the city’s Small Business Commission.

Mayor Lee supports a complete ban on plastic bags, though some small businesses expressed concerns, “arguing that the tougher policy would drive away customers with higher costs and give fuel to critics who say San Francisco’s nanny-state politics are bad for business.”

The mayor has said that he and several supervisors “are committed to modifications if the law [weren’t] working as intended.”

According to the Chronicle, “Stores that don’t comply with the law would be fined $100 for the first infraction, $200 for the second and $500 each time after that. The Department of the Environment would oversee enforcement.”

There are proposed exemptions, such as bags used to hold such goods as loose nails, dry cleaning, bulk candy and nuts, fresh flowers, meat and fish.

Mayor Lee argued that “as environmental awareness grows and more cities adopt bag bans and fees, public behavior will change.”

That is really the hope that those supporting a plastic bag ban have.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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44 thoughts on “Plastic Bag Ban Triggers Lawsuit And San Francisco Expands Ban on the Distribution of Plastic Bags”

  1. JustSaying

    [quote]“We often think politics are contentious here. It is not that they are not contentious, but sometimes we lose perspective that Davis and Yolo County are not nearly as unique as we think they are.

    Opponents of the plastic bag ban have treated this as though it were a novel idea perpetrated in weird Davis when in fact, if anything, Davis is behind a trend that will ultimately see the elimination of the use of plastic bags – it is really only a matter of time.”[/quote]So, I wake up thinking it’s Groundhog Day. Haven’t we heard this claim that ridicules ban opponents for acting like it’s a”novel idea emanating from weird Davis,” even though it’s been debunked before?

    Yes, we have. No, it wasn’t Groundhog Day, it was Christmas vacation, when this claim was made and questioned before. From Vanguard (December 27, 2011):[quote]“[b]There is a running thread in the commentary I have seen opposing plastic bag bans – many are acting as though this was an idea invented in Davis, and thus ludicrous.[/b]”

    “Funny, I think I’ve read all of the Vanguard articles on plastic bag bans and never, never saw such a “running thread in the commentary.”

    How many people have even suggested that the idea of banning bags was “ludicrous” because it was a concept “invented in Davis”? I’ve reread today’s commentary several times and haven’t found any examples here.

    So, is this ridicule of your opposition a good way to lead off your commentary on ‘A Different Approach To Regulating Plastic Bags’? Or, is setting up a phony straw man critical to making your argument? “[/quote]The only “running thread” here is the incessant rehashing of the same old arguments from ban proponents. And the repeated characterization of people who disagree as simpletons whose major contention is “the bag ban is ludicrous because the concept was invented in Davis.”

  2. JustSaying

    Where did you get the photograph? It doesn’t take a meteorologist or a physicist to realize that it took some opposing-fingered mammal to get this pristine Safeway handout “lodged” (staged) in that manner.

    The ducks should be far more worried about the water quality in Putah Creek than some dude hanging up a bag in their environment.

  3. rusty49

    Justsaying puts the Vanguard in its place.
    The bag banners have to latch on to any argument they can whether it’s legit or not. Remember the claim that somehow Davis plastic bags end up in the ocean? Whatever happened to that claim?

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “Remember the claim that somehow Davis plastic bags end up in the ocean? Whatever happened to that claim?”

    What about it. Did you actually read this article? It was a lawsuit and the extension of the San Francisco ban.

  5. Rifkin

    [b]HEADLINE:[/b] “Plastic Bag Ban Triggers Lawsuit And San Francisco Expands Their Ban on the Distribution of Plastic Bags”

    I am confused by this headline. Did you mean to write this: “Plastic Bag Ban Triggers Lawsuit And San Francisco Expands [b]its[/b] Ban on the Distribution of Plastic Bags”? Or are you referring to more than one San Francisco?

    [i]”Opponents of the plastic bag ban have treated this as though it were a novel idea perpetrated in weird Davis when in fact, if anything, Davis is behind a trend that will ultimately see the elimination of the use of plastic bags – it is really only a matter of time.”[/i]

    That is false.

    I will oppose the plastic grocery bag ban in Davis until the proponents make the case we need it in Davis. So far they have failed to convince me.

    The Davis proponents talk about the problem of plastics in the ocean. But in reality that has nothing to do with Davis. Nothing. Davis bags are not going to the ocean or even to the Sacramento River.

    The Davis proponents talk about plastic bags filling up our landfill. But in reality that has nothing to do with Davis. Nothing. The Yolo County landfill is not being stuffed to the gills with plastic grocery bags.

    The Davis proponents talk about plastic grocery bags polluting the landscape in Davis. But in reality that has nothing to do with Davis. Nothing. You might find a bag here or there. But you are far more likely to find hundreds of other forms of garbage, such as the paper bags which hold take out orders from fast food restaurants.

    The Davis proponents talk about the great danger of using any sort of petroleum products. But I have not yet noticed those proponents giving up their cars or riding bicycles which have tires made from hemp or buying computers which are made without plastics.

    In cities like San Francisco or Santa Monica, where they abut the ocean and where perhaps they have lots of people who are not careful to use waste containers when they discard trash, it might make sense to ban plastic bags. It does not make sense in Davis. And the proponents have never successfully made the case that it does.

  6. JustSaying

    [quote]“Wow now I get accused of staging the bag – lol. A reader sent it in.”[/quote]No, not true. I asked you got the photograph. You stand accused only of [u]publishing[/u] an obviously staged illustration for your piece. Will you be giving a photo credit?

    The only person I know who has enough clean, unwrinkled plastic bags to waste them this way also makes suits out of them.

  7. JustSaying

    Was it the same person who tossed the duck carcasses into the creek? Were they supposed to have expired from eating plastic bags that blew in from San Francisco?

  8. medwoman

    Rich

    “The Davis proponents talk about plastic grocery bags polluting the landscape in Davis. But in reality that has nothing to do with Davis. Nothing. You might find a bag here or there”

    I will have to respectfully disagree with what I see as the over reach of your comment . “a bag here or there” seen on a regular basis on my walks
    May have a small effect, but it is not “nothing” and exceeds my tolerance for litter. I grant that it may not exceed yours, but it does exceed mine. Stating that there are other forms of litter is no reason that we should allow this form to persist.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I will oppose the plastic grocery bag ban in Davis until the proponents make the case we need it in Davis. So far they have failed to convince me. [/quote]

    I’m w you…

    [quote]Typical response from the right wingers so far, waiting for Boone, Musser, and 91 Octane to add their reactionary thoughts.[/quote]

    To disagree is “reactionary”? LOL

  10. Rifkin

    [i]”‘a bag here or there’ seen on a regular basis on my walks
    May have a small effect, but it is not ‘nothing’ and exceeds my tolerance for litter.”[/i]

    This is a completely selfish argument. It almost turns the environmentalist argument on its head.

    What you are saying, MEDS, is that you personally get no benefit from plastic grocery bags but you personally see a bag here and there and therefore the “cost” to you is greater than the benefit and therefore you want no one else to have them.

    In reality, the vast majority of Davis people get a benefit from plastic grocery bags. That is why they choose to use them. They could bring their hemp bag or their willow reed bag or their organic corn bag, but they choose not to do so. They get more benefit from the convenience and multiple purposes of a free plastic grocery bag.

    The vast majority of people in Davis also never wantonly discard them. That is why they cause almost no environmental harm in Davis.

    If you were to volunteer at one of the pond clean-up days–perhaps I have worked alongside you at one but you did not tell me that you were MEDS?–you would know that even in the pond trash, plastic grocery bags are a small part of the trash. I walk every single greenbelt in Davis on a regular basis. I rarely see any trash strewn about most days. If I do see some, it is most commonly paper waste.

    My suggestion to you is this: If you are seeing large quantities of plastic grocery bags on your street, in your gutter or alongside your walking path, pick it up and throw it away.

  11. rusty49

    I walk and run the trail behind Wilhorse Golf Course which is fairly close to the dumps. I very rarely see a plastic bag. Where’s all these bags that are supposedly blowing away from the dumps?

  12. Rifkin

    Brian: [i]”Typical response from the right wingers so far, waiting for Boone, Musser, and 91 Octane to add their reactionary thoughts.”[/i]

    Thankfully I am not a right-winger. Even more thankfully I am not a left-winger. Most thankfully I don’t make my argument on the basis of the horrible hair band, Winger, or the erstwhile downtown Davis department store, Winger’s.

    [img]http://api.ning.com/files/e4L8LUmX9y8EnpdD-ty8D8TBxsRbrhPkea0UVbN04W-NkXsNTR6YAMa-K8fqk9kazVOCHvDHH0sZ9L44*OXFrME7mN7siPVw/winger4.jpg[/img]

  13. medwoman

    Rich

    I completely agree with most of what you say. My reply was addressed only to your use of the term “nothing”. And I do not doubt that many people perceive that there is a benefit to the availability of plastic bags. However, as my experiences in some Eurpean cities would illustrate
    The use of plastic bags is neither a necessity nor an intrinsic human right. Their use is simply the way we have become used to doing things, nothing more and nothing less. When enough of us perceive the disadvantages as outweighing the disadvantages, we will change. I don’t see this as any more or less selfish than advocating for any other position we prefer.

    As far as not seeing trash strewn about, I suspect that this is largely due to the fact that many of us do a little mini clean up of our path as we go.
    I don’t mind doing this at all, but I think bolstering the prevention side as well as the clean up is also worth considering.

  14. rusty49

    “I captured the picture and sent it to the Vanguard and I assure you it was not staged.”

    How many potato chip bags, newspapers, candy wrappers and coke cans did you have to walk by to get that pic?

  15. Frankly

    [i]Typical response from the right wingers so far, waiting for Boone, Musser, and 91 Octane to add their reactionary thoughts.[/i]

    I have no reaction to that statement.

    Rusty49:[i]I’m the right winger on the left.[/i]

    LOL! We need to get together with Bidilin and jam sometime. Maybe write a song together about environmental wackoism and the left-wingers’ irrational fear of plastic bags.

    Rusty49: [i]”How many potato chip bags, newspapers, candy wrappers and coke cans did you have to walk by to get that pic?”[/i]

    Very good point…and how many more steaming dog piles will he step in after bags are banned?

    This is an apt metaphor for the steaming pile of crappy arguments supporting a Davis plastic bag ban. I agree with Rich, the banners are FAR short of making a case for this. It is time to move on to the next nutty nanny government cause.

  16. TimR

    [quote]How many potato chip bags, newspapers, candy wrappers and coke cans did you have to walk by to get that pic?[/quote]
    Like many Davisites, I stop and pick up trash along my walks. This bag happened to be in a tree at eye level when walking across the foot-bridge over the N. Fork of Putah Creek. Since the storm drains in So. Davis flow into the creek, it is often littered with flotsam.

    No one is saying that a bag ban is going to eliminate all litter, but it will certainly reduce one component.

  17. rusty49

    Damn Jeff, you are one crazy right winger. It’s a good thing we don’t get offended.

    “Very good point…and how many more steaming dog piles will he step in after bags are banned?”

    It’s a good thing that liberals like dogs or they might have been next to go because their piles might have exceeded someone’s tolerance for litter.

  18. Rifkin

    I have a suggestion for the bag-banners that might prove your case, though I suspect in fact it will prove just the opposite.

    [img]http://www.davishomes2sell.com/images/pump_house_on_bike_path_300.jpg[/img]

    Get a cheap, but very good digital video camera ([url]http://gopro.com/products/?gclid=CN6rmKDklq4CFQ9-hwod8WOAMA[/url]). (Forget for a moment that it includes petroleum products.) Recording everything you see along the way, take a west-by-southwest walk on the footpath starting at Sierra Madre Drive and San Marino Drive in S. Davis.

    Keep going until you reach Drummond Avenue, where you will turn south. At the south end of Drummond Lane turn west on the greenbelt and follow the path west all the way to Research Park Drive.

    ][img]http://i3.squidoocdn.com/resize/squidoo_images/-1/draft_lens2291815module12624141photo_1226801529Spiritbearwithcubs80w.jpg[/img]

    My guess is that you will see very little or no garbage at all. If you see some, it probably won’t be plastic grocery bags. But if you see a Safeway bag or a Nugget bag–assuming you did not plant them there–that might help prove your case that users of plastic grocery bags in Davis are not to be trusted.

    [img]http://o5.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273×203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/1b53076959e2dd9eeef904273e54318e[/img]

  19. JustSaying

    [quote]“I walk and run the trail behind Wilhorse Golf Course which is fairly close to the dumps. I very rarely see a plastic bag. Where’s all these bags that are supposedly blowing away from the dumps?”[/quote]rusty49, I haul stuff to the dump several times a year. There are bags blowing around there, getting caught up on the dump property and obviously cleaned up by the dump staff from time to time.[quote]“I captured the picture and sent it to the Vanguard and I assure you it was not staged.” [/quote]“Staged” or hung by someone for what purpose? TimR, it obviously couldn’t have been blown onto the branches in that way by random winds.

    However, I accept your report about coming upon it the way it’s shown in this photo. What would you say is the significance of this find? Why did you take the picture?

  20. JustSaying

    [quote]“a bag here or there’ seen on a regular basis on my walks May have a small effect, but it is not ‘nothing’ and exceeds my tolerance for litter.”

    “This is a completely selfish argument. It almost turns the environmentalist argument on its head.”[/quote]If I had some time, I’m sure I could come up with some negative impacts of manufacturing and operating automobiles, yet I have yet to see a town considering outlawing the selling of cars in the city limits. Gawd, no, consider the sales tax leakage!

    Furthermore, I see three and four cars parked in a single driveway, streets lined with them, blocking space that bikes could be using. They ubiquitous, for heaven’s sake.

    Not to say that lots of people want to reduce emissions from vehicles, encourage use of different fuels and volunteer to stop using cars themselves most of the time or, even, completely.

    If the environmental approach to automobiles is acceptable to Davisites, what’s the reason for attacking such a small problem with such ferocity?

  21. JustSaying

    [quote]“Typical response from the right wingers so far, waiting for Boone, Musser, and 91 Octane to add their reactionary thoughts.”[/quote]We’ve got 11 bags in our car right now, some insulated, some made of partially recycled materials. Damned if I don’t forget to take one in to Nugget sometimes and, when asked, I say “either one, whichever’s easier.” Then, I use the store’s bag at least twice more when I get home.

    Once home, I rail at all the excess cellophane, plastic and paper packaging on the purchases that aren’t offered (even at the co-op) in bulk options.

    That said, I’d rather the city spend its ordinance public comment time on something that enables cops to stop minors who look like they’ve been drinking rather than on outlawing an insignificant problem like convenience bags from the grocery store.

    Signed,
    Right Wing Liberal

  22. TimR

    [quote]However, I accept your report about coming upon it the way it’s shown in this photo. What would you say is the significance of this find? Why did you take the picture?[/quote]

    I took the picture because of the way Safeway logo ended up so prominently displayed for everyone who crossed that bridge. It was as if someones garbage had become a billboard for the grocery store. It made me wonder whether the markings on the bag are put there for the initial user or for people who might see it during the bags uncertain lifespan, and whether the makers of these bags actually had a conversation where they tout the benefits of brand exposure from carelessly disposed bags.

  23. 91 Octane

    vanguard: It is not that they are not contentious, but sometimes we lose perspective that Davis and Yolo County are not nearly as unique as we think they are.

    out of how many cities in the country, which have banned plastic bags? I don’t know the figure, but I’m willing to bet the answer will show the vanguard is the one who has “lost perspective.”

  24. 91 Octane

    vanguard: Now an attorney, Stephen Joseph, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition” – you really cannot make this stuff up.

    lol, this is coming from someone who wants to ban plastic bags while legalizing weed?

  25. JustSaying

    [quote]“…whether the makers of these bags actually had a conversation where they tout the benefits of brand exposure from carelessly disposed bags.”[/quote]You’ve certainly got a point there, TimR, quite a bit different than David must have meant when he picked your photo to illustrate the story. But, an interesting one, indeed.

    Given the irritation people have about littering, an ad agency rep who promoted such an idea would get run out of the room. More likely, adding a logo is seen as making the initial purchaser think good thoughts about the store, with the multiplier effect seen in the second or third uses (at the gym carrying wet towel, etc.).

  26. medwoman

    I admit that because of my profession I probably see the world from a different perspective from most. My focus is almost always on prevention as the best alternative. This leads me to some interpretations that I believe represent a minority position, but which I do not regard as “wacko”.
    1) Even if you do not see plastic bags as a “big issue”, it is some issue. Why not addresses those issues we can? An example from my field.
    The common skin condition ” psoriasis” is a nuisance, not a killer like breast cancer. Does this mean that I think we should cut off all funding
    for research on prevention and treatment of psoriasis. Of course not. Just because something is not the worst problem we have doesn’t mean
    we shouldn’t address it.
    2) Showing pristine pictures of areas around town is nice and left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is, however, no more definitive than is a random picture of a plastic bag in a tree. Those pristine pictures may have been taken right after some civic minded walkers cleaned up the area.
    And, as Rich pointed out yesterday, a fair amount of clean up is done by volunteer citizens working as groups as in the pond cleanups and as individual citizens who routinely pick up trash as we walk.
    3) As for the “what will I use to clean up my dog poop ” I previously posted at least ten alternative, fully biodegradable alternatives.
    4). “Cars in driveways” as an argument against a plastic bag ban ? The presence of one problem has nothing to do with attempting to minimize
    Another, admittedly lesser problem.
    5) But we NEED our plastic bags. No, we do not need them. We merely find them convenient. Some of those of us who are a bit older can clearly remember when plastic bags were not available. Groceries still got taken home. Dog poop did get cleaned up. And the sky did not fall because of the absence of plastic bags.

    Goodness, I think I’ll stop lest anyone think that I am agreeing with Jeff that we should go back to the “golden era” of the 50’s ; )

  27. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Groceries still got taken home. Dog poop did get cleaned up. And the sky did not fall because of the absence of plastic bags. [/quote]

    I disagree w this statement. Before the advent of plastic bags, the dog poop was not getting cleaned up…

  28. TimR

    [quote]My guess is that you will see very little or no garbage at all.[/quote]
    I took the Rifkin challenge and within about 100ft found the first plastic bag. By the time I reached Washoe ( about 1000 ft ) I had 2 more in hand and spied one across the creek out of reach.

  29. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]ERM: “Before the advent of plastic bags, the dog poop was not getting cleaned up…”

    DMG: Maybe so but there is no causal linkage there.[/quote]

    How do you know? Did you do a study? LOL

  30. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I took the Rifkin challenge and within about 100ft found the first plastic bag. By the time I reached Washoe ( about 1000 ft ) I had 2 more in hand and spied one across the creek out of reach. [/quote]

    Rarely if ever do I see plastic bag litter on my walks…

  31. TimR

    [quote]Rarely if ever do I see plastic bag litter on my walks…[/quote]

    Rarely if ever do I see an apparently intoxicated teenager or college student on my walks…

  32. rusty49

    “Rarely if ever do I see plastic bag litter on my walks…”

    “Rarely if ever do I see an apparently intoxicated teenager or college student on my walks…”

    Good, then neither one should be banned.

  33. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Rarely if ever do I see an apparently intoxicated teenager or college student on my walks…[/quote]

    Right, so you should have no problem with the proposed ordinance to arrest teens under the influence, since there are almost none out there wandering the streets. The ordinance would be essentially harmless, no?

  34. medwoman

    No ordinance that lacks purpose is harmless since it decreases overall respect for the law and those who make the laws whether politicians or citizens by initiative. This is true regardless of one’s political position.

  35. Frankly

    [i]”No ordinance that lacks purpose is harmless since it decreases overall respect for the law and those who make the laws whether politicians or citizens by initiative. This is true regardless of one’s political position.”[/i]

    Very well said.

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