L.A. the Latest City to Ban Plastic Bags
Posted on May 30, 2012
By Sharon Velasquez
Last week, the City of Los Angeles joined the ranks of other environmentalist-driven cities and municipalities by banning the use of single-use plastic bags within its boundaries. The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 for the ordinance, with a lone vote from Councilman Bernard Parks.
The ban will undergo a four-month environmental review followed by another ordinance before going into effect. About 7,500 stores will be affected after the review with large businesses getting six months to adapt and smaller businesses, 12 months.
The objective of the ban is to save taxpayers money for trash cleanup, promote sustainability, and improve the environment.
A 10 cent fee was also be approved by the City for the use of paper bags. Residents receiving governmental assistance will not be affected by this fee. The fee’s effect on the use of paper bags will be gauged in two years to determine its result.
At large supermarkets, paper bags will be provided for customers without charge for six months following the initial six-month period the stores are given to phase them out.
Despite seeking to rid the city of problems ensuing from the use of approximately 2.3 billion single-use plastic bags per year and a recycling rate of less than 5%, this ban has struck a sensitive chord: employment. Employees of plastic manufacturing companies protested the ban while wearing “Don’t Kill My Job” T-shirts. Alejandro Ortega, a worker employed in the plastic bag manufacturing industry for a decade, told the Los Angeles Times, “My family depends on my job and benefits, too.”
Historically, bans like these have been unpopular with the multi-billion plastic bag and oil industries too. They oppose ordinances like these, arguing that they are detrimental to the economy, that their environmental impact is not great, and that they result in unemployment.
Despite the City of Los Angeles being now the largest U.S. city to approve a ban of this nature, it follows the footsteps of 47 cities in California alone, including Santa Monica, San Jose, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Long Beach. Nationally, Seattle City County passed a similar ban last December and last week Hawaii announced a state-wide plastic bag ban by July 2015. At a global level, countries like Bangladesh, China, and the U.K. have taxed or banned the use of plastic bags.
The City of Los Angeles’ ban was modeled around L.A. County’s. As of January 1, 2012, an L.A. County plastic bag ban was implemented with a 10 cent paper bag surcharge, if used. According to Jennie R. Romer, founder of www.plasticbaglaws.org, the county’s paper bag fee is estimated to have lowered reliance on them by 94%.
Sharon Velasquez is a UCLA student majoring in English Literature and minoring in Urban Planning and Public Policy. She is currently involved in several student groups that mentor disadvantaged youth and seek to raise political awareness. She also holds an internship with a Santa Monica-based environmental organization that strives to educate the public on the benefits of environmental sustainability.