Los Angeles has become the largest city in the nation to prohibit single-use plastic bags after the City Council gave final approval June 25 to a ban on their distribution at grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies.
Shoppers will soon be required to bring reusable shopping bags or to pay 10 cents per paper bag. The ordinance, which will be phased in, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014 for large stores and July 1, 2014 for smaller stores.
Los Angeles joins a number of other California cities that have enacted similar bans, including Santa Monica. According to the environmental organization Heal the Bay, one in four Californians now live in a city that has enacted curbs against single-use bags.
Environmentalists hailed the plastic bag ban by the second largest city in the U.S.
“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.”
Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents coastal communities including Venice, said he was “absolutely thrilled” at the ban’s passage, noting that he has fought for such a measure during the eight years he has been in office.
But opponents argued that outlawing single-use plastic bag distribution is poor economic policy that will negatively impact businesses.
“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,” said Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an organization representing plastic bag manufacturers.
“This ordinance has been sold to the public through junk science in the name of the environment, but bag bans and taxes don’t help the environment – they make things worse. 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.”
According to Heal the Bay, California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste, and less than 5 percent of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide.