The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday will consider a ban on single-use plastic and paper bags at convenience stores and supermarkets after blowing through its March 31 deadline to approve a bag ban.
A plastic bag ban has been simmering at City Hall since 2004, when a task force was created to fight the amount of single-use plastic bags in the city's waterways. In 2008, the City Council adopted a policy statement with the goal of banning plastic carryout bags by January 2010.
The move to ban single-use plastic bags stalled as the city hoped the state Legislature would approve a state-wide ban, but picked up steam again last fall. The city's Board of Public Works voted 4-0 in October to endorse the ban on single-use bags and the City Council in December approved its self-imposed end of March deadline to approve a bag ban.
It is estimated that 1.2 to 2.3 billion single-use plastic carryout bags and 400 million single-use paper bags are used annually in Los Angeles. A report by the Board of Public Works cited studies showing that single-use paper bags have greater greenhouse gas emissions through their production and use than a single-use plastic bag, prompting paper bags to also be targeted.
The nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay and other supporters of the bag ban have scheduled a 9 a.m. rally Wednesday on the steps of City Hall before the City Council meeting begins at 10 a.m.
The motion before the City Council would require retailers to provide reusable bags to customers for sale or at no charge and would give smaller retailers a six-month grace period to phase-out their stock of plastic bags. It also calls for a six-month grace period for retailers to supply recyclable paper bags at no cost to customers, with retailers charging 10 cents per bag after the grace period, followed by a ban on paper bags.
Produce bags to carry meats and produce in the store would still be allowed.
City Councilman Eric Garcetti plans on co-introducing a substitute motion that would give large retailers six months to to phase-out plastic bags and small retailers one year. It also would require all retailers to charge a 10-cent fee per paper bag one year after enactment of the program.
Other municipalities in California that have passed single-use plastic bag bans include: San Francisco, Santa Monica, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Calabasas, Long Beach and Carpinteria.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November 2010 approved a plastic bag ban in unincorporated areas that went into effect July 1, 2011, at large stores and on Jan. 1, 2012, at smaller retailers. A lawsuit claimed the 10-cent fee on paper bags imposed by the county was an illegal tax under Proposition 26, but Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant in March rejected the argument in a tentative ruling.
Previous public meetings to debate the merits of a single-use bag ban in Los Angeles included hours of testimony from workers at plastic bag manufacturing plants worried about losing their jobs and environmentalists who claim that plastic bags remain one of the top pollutants in the ocean and waterways.