Los Angeles banning plastic bags now, paper later

May 16, 2012

By Brian Calle and Josephine Djuhana

Paper or plastic? Residents of Los Angeles soon may no longer hear that question at grocery checkout stands as the City of Angels has taken steps to ban certain grocery bags, effectively determining the kinds of bags shoppers are allowed to use when carrying groceries.

Recently Los Angeles’ City Council committee on Energy and Environment unanimously passed a recommendation to effectively ban the use of plastic bags within the city. Arguing that the decision would encourage residents to use reusable, “earth-friendly” shopping bags instead, the committee moved to prohibit more than 7,000 stores in Los Angeles from giving customers plastic bags for their purchased items. Additionally, grocery markets are required to charge customers 10 cents for paper bags; within six months, paper bags will be banned as well, if the plan goes through.

Based on the recommendation, the City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance in the coming weeks.

The plastic bag manufacturing industry supports more than 2,000 employees in Los Angeles alone. Workers at Crown Poly, a plastic bag manufacturer, protested the ban, stating that the move would result in dozens of unnecessary layoffs. Cathy Browne, general manager at Crown Poly, said, “Banning our product will harm our company and could put our local industry out of business and put these long-term employees on your unemployment rolls.” Elicia Ortiz, a single mom of three, stated that her job at Crown allowed her “to provide for her family” and help with medical costs for her special needs daughter. Their protests fell on deaf ears.

Other bans

The committee’s move was largely expected considering other unincorporated cities in Los Angeles County have already moved forward with bag bans.

Effective July of last year, stores in cities belonging to unincorporated Los Angeles County were no longer allowed to provide plastic bags for their customers. Legal attempts to fight against the ban made by plastic bag manufacturers and other petitioners were shot down in court last week, when Superior Court Judge James Chalfant upheld Los Angeles County’s bag ban.

Los Angeles Supervisor Gloria Molina said the ruling was a “huge victory not only for Los Angeles County, but for all jurisdictions waiting to see what happens in the case so they can implement similar laws.”

Los Angeles has plenty of problems to tackle—what with its crumbling infrastructure, dilapidated neighborhoods, a high unemployment rate, and more—yet the city instead seems poised to pick on shoppers, bag makers and stores.

“At a time when unemployment in Los Angeles County is 12.1 percent, the City Council should be looking at ways to support industry; instead the Council is considering banning a useful product without regard to the workers employed by the industry or potential economic harm,” said Jay Beeber, who is the government affairs chair for the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.

The Los Angeles City Council should probably worry less about plastic bags and think more about its $72 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2011; and its estimated $150-$250 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2012, not to mention unfunded pension liabilities. Let’s hope the council votes the proposed ordinance down.

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