L.A. is the latest city to pass an ordinance to ban plastic bags from retail shops. The City Council decided this week that shoppers in the municipality will bring their own bag for their goodies or pay a quarter for a paper or biodegradable bag. The city has cited the need to reduce cleanup costs and to reduce debris that collects in storm drains and the L.A. River. So, when does this pathbreaking decree take effect? July 1, 2010. Yes, that’s right. Two years from now. Why the two-year delay, L.A.?
As we’ve reported in the past on TriplePundit, the need to reduce plastic bag debris is urgent. One of the primary reasons is to decrease the ever-growing whirl of “plastic soup” in the Pacific Ocean. China gets the urgency. That’s why they’ve eliminated the use of some 3 billion plastic bags a day in a law that took effect last June. A number of other cities have also made similar laws.
So, what’s the hold up? Perhaps it has something to do with the influence of the plastic bag industry. Media reports quote Stephen Joseph, an attorney from the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition” that represents bag manufacturers. Joseph believes that the new trend in legislation to ban plastic bags is based on misinformation and does not think the law will solve the litter problem. Of course, we also know that they are worried about their bottom line. It is possible, however, for plastic bag manufacturers to actually make profits from such legislation. A story by NPR mentions that some companies have transitioned towards making larger and more durable plastic bags intended for re-use, instead of making the flimsy, cheaper, disposable kind.
Bottomline: When cities make bold policies to improve environmental conditions for its citizens, they need to put those policies in effect in a reasonable fashion. Otherwise, such moves are largely symbolic and easily forgotten.