Banning disposable plastic bags in Los Angeles makes sense
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council is set to adopt a policy framework on removing single-use plastic bags from our supermarkets and select retail stores. Simply stated, a reusable bag policy is a smart solution to a major environmental and health problem we face in Los Angeles. If passed, this would be a landmark step toward protection of our environment and important for the legacy for future generations.
The Los Angeles Department of Public Works reports that only 5% of the 2.3 billion plastic bags used each year in the City of Los Angeles are recycled. It also reports that only about 21% of the 400 million paper bags used in the city are recycled as well. Meanwhile, the environmental toll of disposable bags outweighs their advantages. For example, wildlife can mistake plastic pollution for food, which can result in death for these creatures. Plastic bags also blight our communities. Moreover, there are many economic reasons to ban these products, including the high cost of removing these bags from our land and waterways. These and other reasons have compelled forty-three municipalities in California to adopt ordinances restricting the distribution of single-use bags, and even the County of Los Angeles adopted a similar plan two years ago. More are on track to follow suit.
This is the right direction for the City of Los Angeles. The current policy framework being vetted at the City Council on Wednesday includes several phases to allow consumers and retailers time to prepare for the transition away from disposable bags. This phased-in approach is a measured and thoughtful strategy to address concerns that may be raised along the way.
By contrast, the American Chemistry Council has promoted an “alternative” program intended to block genuine progress to reduce this waste. The proposal would create an opt out for large retailers by allowing them to pay a $500 fee to the City. That fee can be reduced if the retailers prove certain conditions have been met. Their alternative is a nonsensical pay to pollute program more appropriate to April Fool’s Day -- a cynical tactic to delay doing the right thing for the City and for our environment. This is just another attempt in a long series of delay tactics to prevent progress on removing plastic bags from our environment. We should instead do the responsible thing for the people of Los Angeles and future generations that will have to deal with the billions of bags we have left for them in our oceans and landfills.
I live and work in a jurisdiction that has already banned plastic bags. Although some promoted doomsday scenarios resulting from this change, the sky has not fallen. My local supermarket still makes money and still is able to sell me groceries. The plastic bag industry is crying wolf here, plain and simple, and we should ignore them. Los Angeles should not be afraid to move forward on Wednesday.