L.A. City Council Approves Plastic Bag Ban

The City Council gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance that makes Los Angeles the most populous city in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags.

The ordinance will take effect Jan. 1 for large stores and six months
later for smaller stores. The council voted 9-1 in support of the ban, with Councilman Bernard Parks casting today’s lone dissenting vote, making official their tentative approval last week.

Under the law, customers would be required to provide their own reusable bags when they visit stores, or pay 10 cents each for paper bags.

Proponents said a plastic bag ban would lead to cleaner beaches, storm drains, rivers and other public spaces that tend to become the final resting places for the non-biodegradable bags. Representatives for plastics companies countered that it would cost jobs, while other opponents contend that reusable bags are prone to germs and could pose a health risk.

To help ease the pain of the ban, the city would hand out 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas, and mothers who receive assistance to purchase food from a Women, Infants and Children program would be exempted from the ban.

Officials said the city spends $2 million a year to clean up plastic bag litter, and the implementation of a ban would result in the loss of 15 jobs at companies within the city.

The law is similar to one adopted by Los Angeles County. Other cities in California, such as San Francisco and Santa Monica, also have plastic bag bans in place.

A statewide ban proposed by a former city councilman, Alex Padilla, was defeated during a Senate vote last month.

L.A.’s ban would take effect Jan. 1 for large stores that make more than $2 million a year or are housed in retail space covering more than 10,000 square feet; and on July 1, 2014, for smaller stores that carry a limited selection of grocery products such as milk, bread, soda and snack foods, as well as those with beer, wine and hard liquor licenses.

Proceeds from the 10-cent charge for recyclable paper bags would be kept by stores and used only to recoup the costs of the bags and comply with the city ban, as well as on educational materials to promote reusable bag use.

Stores would need to file quarterly reports on the number of paper bags given out, how much money the store receives for those bags and their efforts to encourage use of reusable bags.

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