L.A. County Stands Up to the Plastic Bag Monster


First published on Ecolocalizer.

Los Angeles County joins the small but growing ranks of local governments that have banned single-use plastic bags.  After California’s statewide plastic bag ban law (AB 1998) failed to pass this year under pressure from the chemical and plastic bag industries, it is up to cities and counties to take local action to halt the  plastic bag monster.

Los Angeles County supervisors approved a measure on Tuesday that bans plastic bags from being given out at stores.  The measure affects only the unincorporated areas of the county, so does not include the city of Los Angeles, but will apply to over a thousand stores and a million residents.  The measure also requires stores to collect a ten cent fee on paper bags.  For low income customers that receive supplemental food assistance, the new ordinance requires stores to provide paper or reusable bags free of charge.

The theory behind the ordinance is simple–by not having plastic bags available and charging a little bit for paper shoppers will be encouraged to bring their own reusable bags.  The law begins to be implemented in July 2011.

Already the choir of nay-sayers and ignoramuses are singing their tired tunes. For example, Republican Michael D. Antonovich commented, “A a time of economic uncertainty, with a large number of businesses leaving our state and community, this would not be an appropriate time to impose this additional regulation.”

Others are resurrecting a paper vs. plastic debate, arguing the virtues of plastic.  Of course neither of these crowds gets the point–plastic bags are an unnecessary and dangerous pollutant, destructive to habitats, wildlife, sewage systems, soil, and water-supplies. They are an urban nuisance and aesthetic kill-joy. And they make us more oil-dependent.

So? BYOB! Bring your own bag.  If just 1 in 5 of us brought their own canvas or other reusable bags, it would save over 1 billion plastic bags from entering our environment over the course of our lifetimes.

Assembly member Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), who had introduced the state-wide bill, made a prediction after the L.A. County measure passed, “This is just the beginning of a wave of bans against single-use plastic bags across California.”

Other California cities that have plastic bag bans in place include San Francisco, Malibu, Palo Alto, and Fairfax. Across the nation, several cities have also adopted bans or have them in the pipeline, and other nations have country-wide bans.

Who’s next?

Follow me on Twitter @vanlenning.

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