Plastic bags may soon be a thing of the past in L.A. The Los Angeles City Council has tentatively approved an ordinance that would do away with plastic bags and require customers to either bring their own reusable bags or pay 10 cents for each paper bag.
The council voted 11-1 in support of the ban, with Councilman Bernard Parks casting the lone dissenting vote. Since it failed to earn unanimous approval, the ordinance will need a second vote next week.
"The main reason why Councilmember Parks is against the plastic ban is because it raises health concerns," said Brittney Marin, the press deputy for Parks. The councilmember argues that reusable bags need to be washed frequently to prevent cross-contamination between shopping trips. Otherwise, these bags may harbor bacteria like E. Coli, salmonella and fecal coliform that can sicken consumers.
"The other concern is that there are some people in his district who can barely afford to buy food," Marin added. "Not only do they have to pay for bags, but they have to pay for multiple bags. These people don't have cars."
Proponents have said that the ban would lead to cleaner beaches, storm drains, and waterways (like the Los Angeles River), places that tend to become the final resting ground for the non-biodegradable bags. The city also hopes to make a dent on over 20 billion single-use plastic bags used each year, many of which just end up in landfills.
"Best of all, we're creating good green jobs for worthy L.A.-based reusable bag makers like Green Vets LA and Homeboy Industries. It's a win-win-win," Councilmember Paul Koretz, one of the lead architects of the measure, stated in a press release for Heal the Bay. California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year just to dispose of plastic bag waste, and less than 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide.
The ban would take effect on January 1, 2014, for large stores that make more than $2 million a year or are housed in retail space covering more than 10,000 square feet, and on July 1, 2014, for smaller stores that carry a limited selection of grocery products such as milk, bread, soda, and snack foods, as well as those with beer, wine, and liquor licenses.
Proceeds from the 10-cent charge for recyclable paper bags would be kept by stores and used only to recoup the costs of the bags and comply with the city ban, as well as to create educational materials promoting reusable bag use.
Stores would need to file quarterly reports on the number of paper bags given out, how much money the store receives for those bags, and their efforts to encourage use of reusable bags.