L.A. Votes to Ban Plastic Bags, Faces Still Okay

If you live in Los Angeles and are a forgetful person, trips to the grocery store are about to get 100 percent more annoying.

L.A. will soon become the largest city in the United States to implement a controversial ban on single-use plastic grocery bags, after its city council voted in favor of the proposal 13-1 on Wednesday.

The ban will affect 7,500 stores and 4 million residents, who now have sixteen months to get really good at balancing groceries (or devise a system by which they never leave their reusable bags in the designated "reusable bag corner" of their apartments, as I do 85% of the time).

The lone hold out was Democratic councilman Bernard C. Parks who noted the city lacked information about the potential health hazards of reusable bags – remember that girl who caught Norovirus from dirty cookies?

The council initially considered banning paper bags as well, which would have made L.A. the only city in the state to ban both plastic and paper, but decided that a 10-cent paper bag surcharge would suffice for the time being. (Proponents of this move claim such fees can bring about a 94 percent reduction in the use of paper bags—people aren't exactly made of dimes, you know.)

Now the decision will be subject to a four-month environmental review, after which point larger stores will have six months to begin phasing out plastic bags, while smaller ones will be granted a year's grace.

Here's what actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus said during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting held Wednesday morning, just before the vote (via L.A. Observed):

What is hideously ugly, gigantically dangerous, and outrageously expensive and yet we still use it every single day in Los Angeles? No, it is not the 405. It is plastic bags....In L.A. County and the city of Calabasas, 90 percent of customers are bringing their own bags to shop. So does L.A. really want to lose to Calabasas and Oklahoma City in the same week? I don't think so.

What's the deal with plastic bags, right Julia? Haha, classic.

When her time was up, the council president wished Dreyfus "good luck" in her new series.

What won't people ban for Julia-Louis Dreyfus?

Not everyone was thrilled with the passage of the ordinance, though.

Mark Daniels, the chairman of The American Progressive Bag Alliance (fancy), aka Big Plastic Bag, argued that the very worst thing you can do for the environment is ban plastic bags, dummies.

Daniels pointed out that, in some ways, reusable bags are less environmentally friendly than plastic ones because they cannot be recycled.

While this is true in the long run, it's important to remember that a key feature of reusable bags is their reusability. In response to the critique, the City Council said they would adopt standards to make recyclability a requirement of reusable bags.

The plastic bag industry, which includes both manufacturers and recyclers, employs 2,000 people statewide.

Los Angeles currently goes through approximately 2.3 billion plastic bags each year. Only about 5 percent of them are recycled.

[L.A. Times // LA Observed // Image via Getty]