L.A. Plastic Bag Ban: Council OKs Major Step Toward Complete Ban

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Paper or Plastic? After action taken today by the L.A. City Council, the phrase may soon be out of date. In a nearly unanimous vote, they gave preliminary approval to ban plastic bags and charge 10-cents for paper ones at around 7,500 stores in the city.

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The proposal now must be vetted through an environmental impact report, which will be opened up to the public for comment and is requested to be back in the hands of council members within four months. The City Attorney must also draft an ordinance, which when approved by the council again will go to the mayor, who has indicated he will sign it into law.

But when all that is said and done, plastic bags will still be around. It's only after a six-month grace period that large grocery and convenience stores will finally be void of them (but not produce bags). The same will happen to smaller retailers after a 12-month grace period. A 10-cent charge to paper bags will also take place after a year.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the ban, originally intended to ban paper bags, too, but other council members backed away, opting for the extra charge and studying use of paper bags after two years. "It's still possible to ban paper, but if use of paper bags is low enough, say 5 to 10 percent, we'll probably call it good," he told KCET.

In a recent commentary on KCET's website, writer Aja Dang said banning only plastic misses the point. "While the plastic bag has become the poster child as the environmental devil, paper bags have seemed to slip under the radar even though they are worse for the environment."
(Read her full piece here).

A 10-cent charge on paper bags is already in effect in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County where, according to the Los Angeles Times via plasticbaglaws.org, there's been a 94 percent reduction in their use.

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