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.

9 responses

  1. Great! Now I have to *buy* plastic trash bags. Brilliant!
    For the record: there is nothing such as a “single use” plastic bag in my household. 100% of them are used as trash bags.
    And don’t harp about reusable bags, as they pose a serious risk of cross-contamination unless you wash them regularly. But washing requires warm water, soap, energy…or dear oh my! That might be worse than the plastic bag!
    As a final note: I hate plastic bags let lose in the environment as well. Anyone caught littering should be publically flogged.

    1. You know those studies about the hazards of cross contamination are all funded by the plastic bag industry, right? You don’t have anything to worry about, bacteria-wise, unless you have lots of raw meat leaking in your bags.

      1. So you can’t counter the data in the studies, and have to resort to complaining that some of the funding for the academic study came from the American Chemistry Council, and industry group? Btw, I am a professional chemist (with no ties at all to the plastic bag industry), so I know what I am talking about: There is no reason to suspect the data in the paper to which you are likely referring, and the conclusions were very compelling.


        Wash your bag, or get sick.

  2. I live in the SF Bay Area where the bag ban is the law in most counties. The fear-mongers came on strong in the local media, and really banged the drum on reusable bags causing contamination of food if used at the grocery. Another was that it would hurt the plastic bag industry. Really. Hard to make that one up. Also that it would be a discrimination against the poor who can’t afford to buy recyclable bags. It does take a bit of personal retraining to remember to get the bags out of the car and take them into the store,but everyone around here is getting it. Also, you can still buy a paper bag — which can be recycled and reused — for 10 cents. And most stores carry lots of reusable bags — the better to advertise the store with, of course — for $1 or so.

  3. I’m so tired of corporations trying to manipulate the public with their lies. Here’s the response to your stupid, lying, plastic bag industry PR stunt about reusable bags. The health officer from the San Francisco Dept of Health wrote a paper in response to the Klick PR piece saying, “The hypothesis that there is a significant increase in gastrointestinal foodborne illnesses and deaths due to reusable bags has not been tested, much less demonstrated by this study. It would be a disservice to San Francisco residents and visitors to alarm them by claiming that it has been.” Tomas Aragon, San Francisco Health Officer.


  4. I
    gave up bags altogether and use a “box” instead. CRESBI crates are light
    plastic crates just for grocery
    shopping and they really do work. they stack,
    collapse, are dishwasher safe plus they also hold more than most bags. I save time too since I open the crates as I
    shop and turn barcodes up on my stuff as I put them in the crates. Then the
    checker scans my items in each crate with their handheld scanner and hands the
    crates back to me! Checkers tell me they love this because it increases their
    scans per minute/baggers because they’re not reaching into dark murky
    reusable bags that flop around which i never liked anyway. I use different colors
    for food – red for meat, green for veggies, so everythings all sorted when i
    get home. I found them at CRESBI.com. Definitely cost more but worth it to me to
    not have to mess with bags at all and to be able to take control over how my stuff
    gets packed. Plus they will last way longer than the cheap reusable bags. I
    can’t say enough about them, if everyone used these there’d be no lines at the
    checkout and no paper, plastic or bag debate at all.

  5. I think there are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to plastic bags. I think that by placing a ban on them it will help the environment. I know that by using reusable containers for groceries, checkers have an easier time. They can use their handheld scanners really easily instead of cutting through all that plastic and wasting it. I wonder how the citizens feel about it. http://www.aerosoft-usa.com/products/

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