Los Angeles City Council Passes Plastic Bag Ban

Councilwoman Meghan Sahli-Wells, Ballona Creek Renaissance President Jim Lamm, Heal the Bay Program Coordinator James Alamillo – photo by Sandrine Cassidy Schmitt

Los Angeles became the largest city in the country Wednesday to approve a ban on plastic bags at supermarkets, handing a major victory to clean-water advocates who sought to reduce the amount of trash clogging landfills, the region’s waterways and the ocean.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the City Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out plastic bags over the next 12 months at an estimated 7,500 stores. Councilman Bernard Parks cast the only “no” vote.

Culver City Councilwoman Meghan Sahli-Wells enthused, “I’m thrilled! It’s been a long time coming and I’m looking forward to bringing this to our city council as soon as we can.”

Noting the current political situation she observed, “During the recent council race, all three of my colleagues expressed support for a local ban, and four of us were also endorsed by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters.”

Mayor Andy Weissman held that it will only be a matter of time before Culver City follows suit. “At City Council direction, the City Attorney’s office has been drafting an ordinance to prohibit single use plastic bags in Culver City.  That work is ongoing.  We want to be certain that any ordinance we bring forth has satisfactory environmental review and that our regulations have appropriate environmental support. We want an ordinance that is both environmentally meaningful and legally sound.  I am pleased that today’s action by the Los Angeles City Council starts Los Angeles down the same environmental and ordinance drafting path that Culver City has been pursuing for over a year.”

Weissman added,” I would expect that a proposed ordinance for  Culver City will come up for discussion and consideration before the end of summer.”

 Sahli-Wells attended the Los Angeles council meeting this morning, and said “The energy in the room was palpable and the community and business support was overwhelming. This was a big victory for LA and the environment.”

Culver City Councilman Jeff Cooper added his support, saying “The council has been working with the community and city attorney for the past two years to bring an ordinance banning plastic bags . I look forward to this being brought before council very soon.”

Los Angeles council members quietly backed away from a more controversial plan to also ban use of paper grocery bags, which was first proposed by appointees of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Wednesday’s vote kicks off a four-month environmental review of the bag ban, followed by passage of an ordinance putting it into effect. Larger stores would then have six months to phase out plastic bags and smaller markets a 12-month phase-out period. For paper bags, retailers would be required to charge 10 cents per bag starting one year after the plastic bag is enacted.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who pushed for the ban, said city officials would conduct a study in two years to determine whether the prohibition should be expanded to include paper. “My hope is that so few paper bags will be used as a result of this measure that the formal ban … on paper bags may not even be necessary,” he said.

The plan drew strong praise from environmental activists, who had long argued that L.A. needed to follow in the footsteps of San Jose, San Francisco and Long Beach and dozens of other municipalities.

“Plastic harms our environment. It is a threat to the coastal economy. It is a danger to marine life and it is an unconscionable burden to taxpayers who have to foot the bill for cleanups year after year,” said attorney H. David Nahai, a former top executive at the Department of Water and Power.

Environmentalists had tried unsuccessfully for four years to get the plastic bag ban through the council. But the proposal languished in a committee that handled environmental matters. In the meantime, dozens of other cities and counties up and down the state adopted similar bans.

Los Angeles County’s 10-cent fee on paper bags has led to a 94% reduction in the use of those bags, said Jennie R. Romer, the founder of www.plasticbaglaws.org.

Think Culver City Should Ban the Bag ? Do you use plastic, paper or reusable grocery bags ?


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  1. I predict these bans will be lifted in the near future when people realize what a mistake they made in removing easy access to plastic bags. I grew up in an island in the middle of the Pacific and can tell you firsthand that plastic bags are NOT the main source of marine debris that I had to clean up from beaches.

    Plastic is NOT the evil here people. It is the people who litter and carelessly allow trash to escape to our environment. Plastic is essential to our modern civilization and to steadily remove it from society is asking for trouble. What happened to the NO LITTERING campaigns that I saw growing up? Were they really that ineffective that we have to resort banning plastic bags? I think we have to return to that instead of inconveniencing thousands of people with this ban.

  2. I predict there’s no going back on these plastic bag bans, and that someday our ancestors will look back with bemusement at today’s careless use of single-use, throwaway plastic that lasts for eons after we’ve died.

    Today is a very good day for the planet. The day that Culver City follows suit will be another one.

    Patrick Meighan
    Culver City, CA

  3. I have grown very used to having some reusable bags in my purse for smaller shopping. It will be a trick learning to always have the bigger bags for the big grocery shopping trips. Last summer I was in Ukiah in Northern California and they were already requiring reusable bags or you could pay a dime for each bag from them.

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