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L.A. Will Be Biggest City in Nation to Ban Plastic Bags

Photo by Jon Nightingale via Shutterstock
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By a 13-1 vote, the Los Angeles City Council today voted to approve an aggressive plastic bag ban that is aimed at saving taxpayer money for trash cleanup, promoting sustainability, and improving the environment.

Los Angeles will become the largest city in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags in retail stores once the law is in effect.

Today's Council vote orders the Bureau of Sanitation to complete an environmental review of the ban and an ordinance to enact it in four months, according to City News Service.

The approved ordinance is a slightly paler version of an even more strident ban as proposed by Councilman Paul Koretz, which also called for the eventual ban of single-use paper bags. Instead, the approved ban calls for a surcharge on paper bags required by customers at check-out, much like the ban in place in Los Angeles County.

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Who was the dissenter? It was Councilman Bernard Parks, who raised concerns about potential public health risks from cross contamination of raw meats and other groceries in re-usable bags that are not cleaned.

The ban has had much support from environmental groups like Heal the Bay, who held a rally at City Hall this morning prior to the Council meeting.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park, who authored an unsuccessful state-level bill banning single-use bags issued a statement today regarding the L.A. City Council vote:

"Los Angeles’ bag ban ordinance is a significant step toward eliminating single-use bags around our state. There is no time to waste in reversing the alarming 100-fold increase of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. I applaud the City Council for standing up to the plastic bag manufacturers who lobbied hard to defeat this ban and I will continue to work on a statewide ban to make an even larger dent in our plastic bag habit. All Californians benefit from a healthier environment.”

Brownley's AB 1998 made it past the Assembly but was stopped in the Senate thanks to the lobbying efforts of bag makers, who also tried to stop the L.A. ordinance from passing, claiming that a ban would have a negative economic impact in the region and that there was no real environmental benefit to banning the bags.

The L.A. ban will be enacted in phases, and the City Council agreed to revisit the idea of banning single-use paper bags in two years.

So goes Los Angeles, so goes the rest of the nation? Perhaps.

"I believe today will be a historic tipping point towards an eventual elimination of paper and plastic bags throughout the world,'' Koretz said.

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