Los Angeles Bans Plastic Shopping Bags

plastic bag in treeThe Los Angeles City Council voted on Tuesday, June 18 to approve a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. The Coucil voted 11 to 1 in favor of the ordinance, and a final vote is scheduled for next week. Last year, the Council voted 13 to 1 to move forward on banning single use plastic shopping bags. The ban will go into effect for large stores on January 1, 2014, and for smaller stores on July 1, 2014. Paper bags will not be included in the ban, but stores now have to charge 10 cents per paper bag.

When the ban goes into affect, one in four Californians will live in a city that bans single-use plastic shoppings bags, according to the environmental group, Heal the Bay. There is good financial reasoning behind the ban. Only five percent of single use plastic bags are recycled every year across the state and California municipalities spend almost $25 million a year to collect and throw away plastic bags that litter the streets and clog storm drains. Currently there are almost two billion plastic shopping bags and 400 million paper bags are distributed every year in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles joins other Southern California cities which have banned plastic shopping bags, including Long Beach, Calabasas, Santa Monica, Pasadena, and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. There are cities in other parts of California that have enacted bans on plastic shopping bags. A total of 76 state municipalities have such bans and dozens of others are considering enacting bans.

“Today, our city became a model for our state and the rest of the nation,” said Kirsten James, Heal the Bay’s Science and Policy Director for water quality. “The vote further emphasizes that the time has come for us to move past the wasteful convenience of a plastic bag to sustainable reusable bags.”

Council member Paul Koretz said that the community support behind the ban “has been remarkable.” Koretz added that “over 5 neighborhood councils, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) have joined with Heal the Bay, the entire Clean Seas Coalition and environmental justice groups like Pacoima Beautiful in calling for a ban.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the ban, including industry groups such as the American Progressive Bag Alliance. Mark Daniels, Chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said in a statement:

“By voting to ban plastic bags and impose a 10-cent tax on paper bags, the Los Angeles City Council has sent a terrible message to manufacturers, small businesses and working families in the City of Los Angeles. A tax on consumers is hurtful and, worse, a ban on plastic bags threatens the jobs of the 1,000 hard-working employees of Los Angeles area plastic bag manufacturers.”

Single use plastic bags were  first introduced into the U.S. market in the 1950s for certain food products, but by the 1970s they were commonplace as single use shopping bags. Flash forward to the 21st century where the environmental impact of single-use plastic shopping bags is well known. Just take a look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is a swirling mass of plastic bits the size of Texas. Hopefully bans like this one will help alleviate the pressure on natural resources.

Photo: Flickr user, katherha

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.