Following in the footsteps of San Francisco, Seattle, and other cities around the world, the Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban single-use plastic bags. Plastic bags have a huge environmental cost as they enter landfills, waterways and ultimately the ocean, and campaign groups fought hard for the measure, which received 11-1 votes in favor from the council. The measure will go into effect on January 1st, 2014, and it makes Los Angeles the largest city in the U.S. to ban plastic bags. Not only that, but it means that by the end of 2014, over 30% of California’s population will be covered by laws regulating plastic and paper bags.
The ban requires Los Angeles’ stores to provide paper bags for a fee of 10 cents to shoppers who do not bring their own bags to the store—with the proceeds from those fees going to the stores themselves to offset the costs to adhering to the ordinance. From January 1st, stores that make over $2 million per year or have an area of over 10,000 square feet will have to comply with the ban, while smaller stores will have until July 1st 2014 to make the necessary changes.
At least some members of the Los Angeles City Council hope that the measure will act as a game changer in California, and further beyond. Councilman Paul Krekorian explained “Enough waiting for the Legislature to someday act on this… let’s take a lead,” while Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the city ordinance, added “Los Angeles is often a trendsetter.. this could be a model for the rest of the country.”
According to Heal the Bay, California spends a whopping $25 million each year to landfill plastic bags, meanwhile Los Angeles reportedly spends $2 million each year cleaning up some of the two billion single-use plastic bags used annually. In spite of strong recycling programs in large parts of the state, the recycling rate for single-use plastic bags in California stands at a relatively paltry five percent.