On June 18, the City of Los Angeles voted to ban plastic shopping bags. joining an ever-growing number of California municipalities that have decided to take matters into their own hands by phasing out the distribution of single-use plastic grocery sacks and promoting the use of reusable bags. LA's ban is an important achievement, especially given the most recent failure of a proposed California statewide ban (SB 405 — Padilla).
Even though most Californians agree that these "plastic parachutes" are unsightly and pose a threat to the environment -- and even to human health -- when they become litter, it seems like the plastic bag issue continues to be contentious in the state capital. So this year, as with the last several years, there are continuing efforts to enact local municipal bans.
And those "ban-the-bag" sentiments are not just felt in California's largest cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. They are echoed by smaller jurisdictions in both the northern and southern parts of the state, as well. Tiny Fairfax adopted its ban in August 2007, and Calabasas in February 2011. In fact, this latest Los Angeles ban brings the total number of ordinances to 56, affecting 77 municipalities. That means about a quarter of California's residents are already in the "reusable bag" habit.
But, are these local bans working? According to the County of Los Angeles, whose ordinance went into effect in July, 2011, the answer is a resounding yes. "One year later, official reports showed that overall single-use bag use was reduced by 95 percent, which includes a 30 percent reduction in single-use paper bags. LA County's ordinance included a ban on plastic bags and a 10-cent charge for paper bags."
While these municipal bans are seen as effective for the environment, they can be problematic for both consumers and retailers. According to the California Grocers' and the California Retailers' Associations, a statewide approach to single-use plastic bags is more appropriate than the current "patchwork" of local ordinances now in play. Consider how confusing it is for customers and retail employees when one city has a ban and the city next door still bags groceries in plastic.
Sacramento politics aside, for now, more and more municipalities are jumping on the "Plastic-Bag-Ban-Bandwagon" and riding down the road to a cleaner California.
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