May 23 - City of Los Angeles Votes to Ban Plastic Bags



Contact: Mark Murray (916) 443-5422

The Los Angeles City Council today voted to phase-out single-use plastic grocery bags in the nation’s 2nd largest City.

Council Member Paul Koretz, who championed the ordinance and introduced the motion to ban bags, stated,

"Los Angeles has taken a magnificent step forward with the vote of the City Council today. There are huge environmental benefits when we say NO to single-use bags, but this action will also help us cut sanitation clean-up costs and get blight out of our neighborhoods, which is great news at a time when cities and the state are struggling to provide services due to severe budgetary challenges."

To date, 48 California cities and counties have adopted ordinances banning single-use plastic bags, which have been targeted for their contribution to litter, high cost to consumers, nuisance in waste management, and threat to wildlife and the environment.

Californians generate more than 14 billion plastic bags annually, less than 5% of which are recycled.

More than 2.7 billion single use bags are generated in Los Angeles alone. Analyses by City staff and others have determined that single use bags cost Los Angeles consumers and taxpayers more than $75 million annually in higher grocery costs and pollution clean-up costs. Plastic bags have been found to be one of the largest and costliest contributors to litter and pollution in the Los Angeles River and Ballona Creek. Under Clean Water Act, city tax/rate payers have been forced to spend an estimated $3 million annually to clean up and keep plastic bags out of these impaired water bodies.

The city’s decision will also increase the demand for green jobs. Local reusable bag makers showed up at the hearing in support. Los Angeles County is also home to three plastic bag manufacturers, one of which has testified that plastic bags make up a small percentage, but not the majority of its production line. More than 90% of the single-use plastics bags made in the state are sent outside of California.

In the marine environment, plastic bags pose a serious threat to wildlife through ingestion and entanglement. And because they never biodegrade, the same plastic bag can pose a threat for generations.

"Plastic bags often become litter after being properly disposed," said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. "They blow out of trash cans, garbage trucks and landfills, and are carried by the wind and water throughout the environment. This is one instance where recycling doesn’t seem to be the answer."

The City of Los Angeles was one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to attempt to recycle plastic bags at curbside. That effort has proven to be costly and unsuccessful. Despite previous promises from the plastics industry, financial support and end-use markets for plastic bags collected at curbside have failed to materialize. The costs and contamination imposed in the city’s curbside program by plastic bags far exceed any environmental benefit.

The State has learned a similar lesson with regard to efforts to recycle plastic bags returned to grocery stores for recycling. The last assessment by CalRecycle places the statewide recycling rate for plastic bags at 3%, or just about 1,500 tons of plastic bags diverted from landfill through recycling.

By comparison, the local effort in Los Angeles (City and County), and the 47 other jurisdictions that have voted to phase out single use plastic bags, will eliminate nearly 17,000 tons of plastic bags from the litter and waste stream.

LA City’s proposal is just the latest in a growing tide against plastic bags. The plastic bag industry has been trying its hardest to delay the inevitable, including lawsuits and litigation threats based on warped interpretations of the California Environmental Quality Act, Proposition 26, and even the California Retail Food Code. But in the courts and city halls across California, we will continue to see plastic bag bans prevail.

Murray predicted,

"With or without legislative action, the single-use plastic shopping bag will be gone from California in less than 5 years. I’ve got to believe that the executives at Hilex and SPI are kicking themselves for not embracing the Bag Tax in California and Seattle when they had the chance."