BLOG: L.A. City Council Approves Plastic Bag Ban

L.A. becomes biggest municipality in U.S. to enact curbs on single-use bags

On May 23, the Los Angeles City Council formally endorsed a sweeping ban on the distribution of single-use, plastic shopping bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies within city limits.

Under the policy approved on a 13-to-1 vote today, the city will take a phased, three-step approach for curbing the environmental and fiscal waste associated with the distribution, collection and disposal of single-use bags.

After an environmental review is completed and a final ordinance is affirmed, the distribution of plastic bags would be forbidden following a six-month transition period. After another six months, a 10-cent charge would then be placed on paper bags to discourage their use, followed by a report back to Council to evaluate an outright ban on single-use paper bags as well.

The phase-out is expected to begin early next year, allowing the city’s 4 million residents to gradually transition into the practice of bringing reusable shopping bags to local retailers. Nearly 2 billion single-use plastic bags and 400 million paper single paper bags are distributed annually in the Los Angeles, according to city officials.

Environmental group Heal the Bay has led the legislative fight to enact a bag ban for more than five years as part of its ongoing efforts to tackle plastic pollution in California seas and neighborhoods.

”Today, the Los Angeles City Council took a prudent step to protect our environment and bolster our economy,” stated Kirsten James, Heal the Bay’s director of water quality. “The vote further emphasizes the fact that the days are numbered for single-use bags in California.”

With the vote, the city becomes the largest municipality in the nation to take action on single-use shopping bags. The council’s decisive action is expected to provide significant momentum for a statewide ban, which is expected to be considered by the state legislature this summer.

“I'm deliriously excited about the passage of this measure.  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,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz, a lead architect of the measure.

“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,” he added.

“As the Chair of Energy and Environment Committee, I set a goal to move the reusable bag initiative forward as soon as possible after it languished for several years,” said Councilmember José Huizar, who took over the E & E chair in March. “Working with my colleagues, I’m proud of the work we did in keeping single-use plastic bags out of our landfills, rivers and oceans.”

With today’s vote, one in four Californians lives in a city that has enacted curbs against single-use bags. 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.

Seeking uniform business rules and regulatory practices, many retailers and city governments are urging for a statewide moratorium on single-use plastic bags. Heal the Bay is sponsoring legislation with Assemblymember Julia Brownley that would ban plastic bags and deter paper bag use throughout the state of California. The measure is expected to be considered this summer.

California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year just to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste. Less than 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide.

Councilmember Eric Garcetti, a longtime proponent of the measure, added: “Plastic bags clog our landfills, clog drainage systems, and litter neighborhoods. This ban will help us keep our communities healthy and clean.”

The council’s action addresses both paper and plastic to drive greater use of reusable bags.  The production of paper bags depletes our forests and natural resources, emits greenhouse gasses, and pollutes our water with toxic chemicals used in the pulp and paper making process.

Heavy-duty reusable bags are convenient, environmentally friendly alternatives that have been embraced by hundreds of millions of consumers around the world.

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