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City Council Votes on L.A.'s Ambitious Plastic and Paper Bag Ban Tomorrow

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The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on a proposed plastic and paper bag ban that has been called one of the biggest and boldest of its kind.

The ban would find single-use plastic bags at retail locations banned for an initial six-month period, then for the following six months a 10-cent surcharge would be placed on paper bags, and, following that period, single-use paper and plastic bags would be banned outright in the city of Los Angeles.

There has been tremendous opposition to the far-reaching ban, as described by Greener Ideal:

The American Chemistry Council is working hard to kill the Los Angeles City bill. It totes the beauty of recycling as the solution to the plastic problem. Somehow these people can keep a straight face even though we know of the115 billion plastic bags manufactured in the United States in 2010, less than 5 percent of those were recycled.
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In a statement released as the Council took up discussion of the policy in April, Mark Daniels, Vice President of Sustainability and Environmental Policy for Hilex Poly and Chair of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said:

"The proposed policy will have no real impact on litter, instead it will only force residents to purchase less environmentally-friendly alternatives like reusable bags, nearly all of which are not recyclable, are less sanitary, are made in China using foreign oil, and often contain heavy metals. Worse, bag bans inflict a regressive tax on the disadvantaged, impose a burden on small businesses, and are a threat to local manufacturing jobs. More than a thousand workers in the Los Angeles area alone rely on quality jobs in the plastic bag manufacturing industry and urge the City Council to consider the impact this legislation will have on them and their families."

Some of those employees were present at the April Council meeting, and testified about the plight they feel they'd face. Unfortunately, because none of those manufacturers are located within the City of Los Angeles, the Council's hands are tied when it comes to providing for them in the scope of the ban.

The efforts of the plastic bag industry have not done much to curb municipal actions like the one facing Los Angeles' civic leaders.

"It is interesting to see the industries' efforts, in a way, is backfiring on them now," Kirsten James, Director of Water Quality at Heal the Bay, told KCET.

L.A. has an approach in mind to help both businesses and shoppers: The City would provide time to work with retailers to help them adjust, and consumers would need to adapt, which Councilman Dennis Zine says is realistic: "People will adjust," he said. "They'll adapt ... and learn to take [reusable bags] with them."

Leslie Tamminen, Ocean Program Director of Seventh Generation Advisors, echoed Zine's sentiments, telling KCET: "We feel that plastic bag bans, in particular, could cause a consumer behavior change on a life scale," she said. "Once people get used to using a reusable bag, it's amazing how many people start expanding that consciousness to other consumer products."

Local non-profit Heal the Bay has been a staunch supporter of the ban. They remark on the scope and impact of the ban:

If approved, L.A. will become the biggest municipality in the nation to take action against single-use bags. The comprehensive policy would ban plastic carryout bags and also address paper carryout bags by phasing in a fee and ban. If enacted, L.A.'s ban would be one of the most-far reaching measures in the U.S. and embolden other cities, counties and states to take action.

To demonstrate support, Heal the Bay is organizing a rally ahead of Wednesday meeting, and encourage public participation. The rally will begin at 9 a.m. at City Hall, and the City Council meeting begins at 10 a.m.

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"The time is now," James of Heal the Bay told KCET. "The city of L.A. has a chance to be a true leader in one of the most progressive policies we have ever seen before us."

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