L.A. Bans Plastic Bags
by Debra Taevs, Recycling Advocates Resource Director
July 2, the Los Angeles City Council voted by a landslide (9-1) to ban free plastic bags in grocery stores as of January 1st 2014. Smaller stores have until June 2014 to comply. This ban applies to convenience stores, supermarkets and large retailers like Wal-Mart. Stores can be fined $500 for defying the ban.
L.A. is now the largest city in the U.S. to "ban the bag" in grocery stores. Shoppers have the option to BYOB (bring their own bags) or pay 10 cents for paper bags. The 10 cent fee goes to the stores to help offset the costs of complying with the ordinance. Stores are required to submit reports quarterly on the number of paper bags purchased. By the end of 2014 over 30% of California's population will be covered by laws that regulate plastic and paper bags.
A reported $2 million is spent annually to clean up plastic bag litter in Los Angeles with more than 228,000 bags being distributed every hour. According to Heal the Bay, California spends $25 million each year to landfill plastic bags, with only 5% of single use plastic bags recycled.
Councilman Paul Koretz hopes that the L.A. Ban will lead to similar initiatives. "Los Angeles is often a trendsetter. This could be a model for the rest of the country." L.A.'s program includes giving away a million reusable bags in low-income areas of the city.
Plastic bag bans are gaining popularity. The first statewide ban was passed by Hawaii in 2012, although a similar measure failed in the California Legislature in May. Portland, Seattle, Santa Monica, San Francisco and many other cities in Oregon and around the world already have plastic bag bans.
Upstream environmental impacts from manufacturing paper bags including energy use, greenhouse gases, solid waste and water are much greater than plastic bags. The message should be to switch to reusable bags and not back to paper.
The impact of plastic bags in the environment is substantial with many ending up in the ocean, being eating by animals, such as sea turtles that mistake them for jellyfish. San Francisco's Save the Bay states that plastic bags entangle suffocate and poison at least 267 known animal species worldwide. Plastic bags also have a negative impact on recycling processes and increase costs by jamming expensive equipment.
Recycling Advocates applauds L.A.â€™s efforts and reminds readers to remember their re-usable bags.