Bye-Bye Baggie: L.A. Bans Single-Use Plastic Bags

Los Angeles becomes largest U.S. city to ban single-use plastic bags.
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
May 24, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

In Los Angeles, the plastic bag is dead.

Joining 47 other cities in California, the City of Angels yesterday became the largest American city to outlaw single-use plastic bags.

"This is a tipping point" for banning plastic bags around the world, City Councilman Paul Koretz, a ban sponsor, declared to MSNBC just before the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to enact the ban.

An estimated 2.3 billion single-use plastic carryout bags are used in Los Angeles each year, according to environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay, which supported the ban.

In March 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to outlaw plastic bags.

The ramifications of the vote will not be felt for some time, reports MSNBC.

Large stores are allowed to phase out plastic bags over six months and then provide free paper bags for another six months. Small retailers will have a year to phase out plastic.

After a year, retailers will be allowed to charge 10 cents for paper bags—a "disincentive" designed to steer consumers to reusable bags.

Yesterday at a convenience store in Eagle Rock, city resident Beth Austin told the Los Angeles Times that she was glad the ban passed. "It does upset me that I have to use all these plastic bags sometimes, especially when some of the bags are not even strong and sturdy," said Austin. "I end up double bagging."

The plastic bag industry vigorously opposed the vote, arguing that it would be bad for health.

Reusable bags "are hazardous because consumers seldom wash them, and they have been found to transport bacteria," said Mark Daniels, chair of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, citing a case earlier this month of girls getting norovirus from cookies left in a reusable bag.

As for the question on the tip of your tongue—now that I'm forced to use reusable grocery bags, which one is best?—we defer to our good friends over at Treehugger, who recommend either a polyester or polypropylene bag.

What do you think: should L.A. have banned single-use plastic bags?