Environmentalists won a major victory on Wednesday when the Los Angeles City Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out plastic bags at supermarket checkout lines over the next 16 months.
According to San Francisco Chronicle, the City Council approved the policy that would ban single-use plastic bags after an environmental impact report is completed later in the year.
Los Angeles Times reports that the ban comes after long years of campaigning by environmentalists who say the ban will reduce the amount of trash in landfills and make the region's waterways and ocean cleaner.
Clean-water advocates say Californians use 12 billion plastic bags a year with less than 5 percent recycled. Reuters reports Los Angeles consumers use about 2.3 billion single-use plastic bags a year. The ban, according to San Francisco Chronicle, is aimed at encouraging consumers to use reusable bags so as to reduce plastic litter in the waterways, landfills and streets.
San Franciso Chronicle reports that Enrique Zaldivar, director of the city's Bureau of Sanitation, said Los Angeles with nearly 4 million residents, will be the largest city in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic bags. He said: "It's important to conserve the environment. The reusable bag will do that."
Reuters reports Los Angeles is the latest among several cities in California to ban plastic bags. Other cities in California that have banned plastic bags include San Jose, San Francisco and Long Beach. According to Reuters, a total of about 45 other California cities have already banned use of plastic bags by grocery stores.
San Francisco approved the first ban in California in 2007 but it applied only to supermarkets and pharmacies. There have been legal challenges of attempts to expand restrictions.
According to Los Angeles Times, David Assmann, a manager in San Francisco's environment department, said bans meet with initial protest from customers and business owners, but soon everyone gets used to bringing their own bags. He added that the ban in San Francisco has now become "part of the culture here."
Jennie R. Romer, founder of www. plasticbaglaws.org, reports that the 10 percent fee has led to 94 percent reduction in use o f paper bags in San Francisco.
Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and several environmental groups lobbied for the ban in Los Angeles. San Francisco Chronicle reports that Louis-Dreyfus, during a public hearing, held up a bag, saying: "I have a quiz for everyone to take today. What is hideously ugly, gigantically dangerous and outrageously expensive, and yet we still use it every single day in Los Angeles? No, it is not the 405 (freeway), it is plastic bags. And unlike most other ugly, dangerous and expensive things, we can get rid of these things overnight."
Reuters reports Council member Ed Reyes said the ban is, "...great for the environment, great for the future, and great for our beaches and our ocean. It's a win for everybody." Ed Reyes encouraged Sacramento city to follow. He said: “Let’s get the message to Sacramento that it’s time to go statewide."
Los Angeles Times reports that once the plastic bag ban ordinance is enacted, larger stores will be given six months to stop handing out plastic bags and smaller stores will have 12 months. After the time expires, retailers would be required to charge 10 cents for each paper bag they provide to customers.
The ban in some California cities applies to all retailers and restaurants, some cover only supermarkets. Some of the bans do not mention paper bags. Los Angeles, however, charges customers who want paper bags.
Council member Paul Koretz, who had pushed for a ban on paper bags also, said: “My hope is that so few paper bags will be used as a result of this measure than the formal ban." He said "ban on paper bags may not even be necessary."
Los Angeles Times reports Council member Bernard C. Parks, cast the only opposing vote. He argued that the city lacked information on potential health hazards from reusable bags.
San Francisco Chronicle reports lobbyists for manufacturers and union employees opposed the ban, saying it would cost jobs. Industry workers in purple and blue shirts protested the ban. According to San Francisco Chronicle, Norma Fierro, an employee at Crown Poly, a plastic bag maker, held up a Chinese-made reusable bag, saying: "Don't send my job to China. Please save my job."
An Industry group warned that the ban will threaten jobs of 2,000 workers and said it is considering filing a legal challenge of the ban. Some opponents of the ban said the environmental impact of the bags was overstated and that the ban would only force consumers to buy paper and reusable bags which will still end up in landfills.
Mark Daniels, chairman of the nonprofit American Progressive Bag Alliance, said: “With this bag ban, the city chose to take a simplistic approach that takes away consumer choice instead of pursuing meaningful programs that encourage greater recycling of plastic bags and wraps, while preserving jobs."