Plastic bags banned in LA

Sixty-seven supermarket and pharmacy chains are considering whether or not to seek a block on the ban of plastic bags that passed on November 16th in Los Angeles County.

The ban would not only prohibit the use of plastic bags in more than 1,000 stores in Los Angeles by January, 2012, but it would also include a steep 10-cent surcharge on all paper bags used in place of plastic, encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusables or simply go without.  Malibu and the ever-progressive San Francisco have also banned plastic bags from being used by retailers, but neither city has instituted the paper surcharge.

In Los Angeles County, more than 6 billion single-use plastic bags are used each year, which averages out to more than four bags per day per household, with only 5% being recycled.

Unprecedented plastic deposits like the puzzling Great Pacific Garbage Patch–a swirling heap of plastic twice the size of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific ocean–has illuminated the problem with our excessive plastic dependency. The long-term effects of slow to breakdown plastic products are simply impossible to know, but at the very least, scientists are suggesting they will be devastating.

Speaking to the LA Times, Ralphs spokeswomen, Kendra Dovel said, “A statewide answer would have been a nice thing.”  She’s referring to the proposed statewide plastic bag ban, which failed last August. While there is already quite a groundswell of support and praise for the Los Angeles ban, environmentalists are still hoping to get the state ban passed and be able to send a much stronger message to consumers and especially to retailers who still use plastic.

Nonetheless, the Los Angeles ban highlights the city’s commitment to becoming greener, and offers renewed hope to environmentalists around the world, who see this as Hollywood’s nod to responsible consumerism.  The ban will be instrumental in ushering in a new era of consciousness, one where although we may still carry our baggage with us wherever we go, there’s going to be considerably less of it.

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Photo: Jill Ettinger