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City of Los Angeles Bans Single Use Plastic Bags PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andres Chavez Sun Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 31 May 2012 04:31

Last Wednesday, May 23, the Los Angeles City Council approved a sweeping ban on the distribution of single-use, plastic shopping bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies within city limits. Los Angeles is the largest municipality in the United States to ban single-use shopping bags.

Stores within the City of San Fernando, and other non-City of Los Angeles municipalities and county areas, will not be affected by the action taken by the City of Los Angeles.

The 13-to-1 vote implements a plan that takes a phased, three-step plan for curbing the environmental and fiscal waste associated with the distribution, collection and disposal of single-use bags.

Kirsten James, director of Water Quality for Heal The Bay, the environmental group that lead the five year struggle to pass the ban, said they were pleased with the vote.

"The Los Angeles City Council took a prudent step to protect our environment and bolster our economy. The vote further emphasizes the fact that the days are numbered for single-use bags in California," James said

Councilmember Paul Koretz, a lead architect of the measure, also expressed joy at the vote.

"I'm deliriously excited about the passage of this measure," Koretz said. "Ever since I first heard about the floating plastic island in the Pacific, while I was still in the state legislature, I have been trying to move the ball forward on banning plastic bags in this state."

He went to say, "With this action today, we have taken a giant step in that direction. As the largest city in the country to ban plastic bags, I hope we have set an example that the rest of the world will follow. My great thanks go to the Heal the Bay and all the other environmental organizations involved for their years of leadership and activism on this issue."

What's expected to happen is there will be an environmental review that will be completed and a final ordinance written. Then there is a six-month transition period before the distribution of plastic bags is outlawed. Six months after that, a 10-cent charge on paper bags, to discourage their use, will be imposed. A report to the City Council, evaluating an outright ban on single-use paper bags, will then be made.

The city's four million residents can expect the phase-out to begin early next year so they can get used to the idea of bringing reusable shopping bags to local retailers. City officials say that nearly 2 billion single-use plastic bags, and 400 million paper single paper bags, are distributed annually in the city of Los Angeles.

Forty-seven state municipalities have adopted ordinances banning plastic single-use bags and most also deter or ban paper single-use bags. Dozens more are considering banning plastic bags in the near future. Heal the Bay is now working towards a statewide ban.

"Adding Los Angeles to the list will, I think, build that momentum and drive the state to a policy as well," James said. "We're working with Assemblymember Julia Brownley and sponsoring legislation again this session." The measure is expected to be considered this summer.

According to Heal the Bay, California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year just to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste. Less than 5 percent of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide.

"People need to realize that government is spending millions of taxpayers' dollars cleaning up this plastic pollution and this just unnecessary spending," James said. "These types of action are going to save consumers and taxpayers lots of money."

James sees an additional benefit from the single use ban – jobs. "We see a lot of green sustainable jobs that are popping up. We have reusable bag companies. We have groups like Homeboy Industries who are making reusable bags, so we really see this as an opportunity for green jobs and green job growth."

She said that based on the experiences of other communities were the ban has been implemented, consumers will adjust easily. "We're hearing that it's a relative easy transition for consumers and for business owners, so we're excited to share that feedback and think that it will be a relatively easy transition for most consumers."

Other states are watching to see how things go in California with the idea that they might go the same route.

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 May 2012 04:34