L.A. Votes to Ban Plastic Bags at Retail Stores

By Elizabeth Harrington | May 23, 2012 | 5:04pm EDT

(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 Wednesday to ban all single-use plastic bags at retail outlets, except for handle-less bags for produce.

The ordinance will affect approximately 10,000 retail stores, including large supermarkets and small corner stores -- and will be phased in over a six-month period for large retailers and a 12-month period for small stores.

Retailers will eventually have to sell or provide reusable bags for free.  Those who violate the ban will be subject to a written warning for the first offense, and will be fined if they fail to comply.

The first violation carries a $100 penalty, and the second a fine of $200.  The third and any subsequent violation carries a fine of $500 for each day an infraction occurs.

The City Administrative Officer estimates that the policy will cost $418,075 to implement, and will be funded by the Citywide Recycling Trust Fund and Solid Waste Resources Revenue Fund.

The ban is based upon a Board of Public Works report published last September.

According to the report, the city will have to hire four “Environmental Compliance Inspectors” to carry out an average of 15 inspections per day to ensure the compliance of retailers.

“Based on complaints from, the public, or observation by enforcement staff, a retailer may be non-compliant with the ordinance and need to be inspected multiple times before achieving compliance.” the report reads.

“It is expected that many retailers will comply with the ordinance with public outreach,” it continues.  “However, non-compliant retailers may have to be re-inspected at least twice before a compliance fine is levied or they come into compliance.”

An estimated 12,000 inspections will be performed annually, according to the Board of Public Works.

The report claims that nearly 20 billion plastic grocery bags are used annually in California, and “most end up in landfills or as litter.”

The American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), which represents the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling sector, slammed the ordinance Tuesday, calling it a “draconian” ban that could cost thousands of jobs.

“The Los Angeles City Council has signaled all along that it would bring a retail bag ban to a vote, so we are not surprised, but are disappointed by the Council's decision to effectively disregard the facts and impose a misguided policy to ban plastic and paper bags,” said Mark Daniels, chairman of the APBA,  in a statement.

“By voting to move forward with this ban, the City of Los Angeles will place an onerous policy on its residents that puts the jobs of hundreds of Angelenos at risk who work in the bag manufacturing and recycling sector,” he said.  “At a time when we should be creating more manufacturing jobs, this ban takes them away, while pushing people to imported reusable bags which are produced overseas and are a less-environmentally friendly option.”

APBA employs 30,800 workers in 349 communities throughout the country.

“Bag bans have not been proven to reduce litter,” said Daniels.  “With this draconian bag ban, the city takes a simplistic approach that misses an opportunity to provide a more effective solution for consumers and the environment - programs that encourage greater recycling of plastic and paper bags and preserve jobs.”

Several other city governments have imposed similar bans.  A Seattle ordinance that bans plastic bags and charges 5 cents per paper bag will take effect on July 1. San Francisco banned plastic bags in grocery stores in 2007 and expanded upon the policy to other retailers by charging 10 cents per bag, earlier this year.

Washington D.C., Brownsville, Texas, some Canadian cities, Bangladesh, China, Ireland, Italy, Mexico City, Rwanda, South Africa, South Australia and Taiwan have also employed bans or fees on single-use plastic bags.

The phase-in period will include a public education component that will “ensure that retailers understand their responsibilities,” according to the Board of Public Works report.

“Outreach materials in several languages will be distributed to all affected businesses during the six-month grace period envisioned for the program,” the report states.

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