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L.A. County passes sweeping ban on plastic bags

Enacting one of the nation's most aggressive environmental measures, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban plastic grocery bags in unincorporated areas of the county.

The vote was 3-1, supported by Supervisors Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Zev Yaroslavsky, and opposed by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. Supervisor Don Knabe was absent.

La-me-plastic-bags  The ban, which will cover nearly 1.1 million residents countywide, is to the point: “No store shall provide to any customer a plastic carryout bag.” An exception would be made for plastic bags that are used to hold fruit, vegetables or raw meat in order to prevent contamination with other grocery items.

If grocers choose to offer paper bags, they must sell them for 10 cents each, according to the ordinance. The revenue will be retained by the stores to purchase the paper bags and educate customers about the law.

“Plastic bags are a pollutant. They pollute the urban landscape. They are what we call in our county urban tumbleweed,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.

Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica environmental group Heal the Bay, said previous county efforts to promote recycling of plastic bags at grocery stores was a failure.

“You cannot recycle your way out of the plastic bag problem,” Gold said. “The cost of convenience can no longer be at the expense of the environment.”

The measure is a significant win for environmental groups, which suffered a major defeat in Sacramento at the end of August with the failure of the state Senate to pass a sweeping plastic bag ban that won the support of the state Assembly and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger amid heavy and costly lobbying by plastic bag manufacturers.

But the ban could cause confusion. The action by the Board of Supervisors only covers the unincorporated areas of L.A. County, covering some neighborhoods like Altadena, Valencia and Rowland Heights, but doesn't cover 88 cities in L.A. County. City councils could adopt a similar ordinance.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich  raised the prospect that small mom-and-pop shops could suffer financially because they won’t be able to buy paper and reusable bags in great volume, and could force low-income people to buy bags to pick up pet waste or carry their lunch.

“At a time of economic uncertainty, with a large number of businesses leaving our state and community this would not be an appropriate time ... to impose this additional regulation,” Antonovich said.

Opponents of the ban told the supervisors that a legal challenge to the ban is still a possibility.

With the Tuesday vote, L.A. County’s measure is more stringent than similar bans adopted elsewhere in California, Gold said.  

San Francisco’s ban, which passed three years ago, is less restrictive because it still permits grocers to offer bioplastic bags made from corn starch, which are imperfect because they also do not degrade in the ocean, Gold said. Bans in San Francisco and Malibu also do not add a surcharge on paper bags, Gold said, which does not give consumers an incentive to switch to reusable cloth bags.

Washington, D.C., decided to tackle the issue not with a ban on any kind of bag, but a 5-cent surcharge per any item of disposable bag.

Gold, however, said an outright ban will be more effective on reducing the 6 billion plastic bags that are used in L.A. County every year, which according to the county, account for 25% of the litter picked up here.

Government figures show that just 5% of plastic bags are recycled.

Last week, the American Chemistry Council, one of the chief opponents of the ban,  warned L.A. County leaders that the proposed ordinance and fee on paper bags fall under the voting requirements of Proposition 26. The initiative, which passed this month, reclassifies most regulatory fees on industry as "taxes" requiring a two-thirds vote in government bodies or in public referendums, rather than a simple majority.

County Counsel Andrea Ordin said Tuesday that the 10-cent surcharge on paper bags is not a fee covered by Prop. 26 because the revenue is being kept by the grocers and not directed to a government agency.


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Photo: Laurie Gould of Pasadena shows her support for a ban on plastic bags during a meeting of the  L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (149)

Hey guys, stop complaining, this is WAYYYY past due. its RIDICULOUS if you are not already onboard, using canvas bags. ITS CALLED RESPECT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, which many of you posting here have none! This is a very good step in the right direction, now for all of California! Change starts with me, and you, so lets get going! Stop being so entitled and pompous, mother earth is SCREAMING AT US to PLEASE stop trashing me, please be nice to my air and water ways. Since we refuse to listen and be ignorant dodo heads, we need measures like this! WAY TO GO! NOW lets get it going all over IMMEDIATELY! Canvas bags have been the way to go, if you have not been noticing, YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION and its people like you making our country fall behind!

How about if I bring my own PLASTIC bags?

What a wonderful step towards a plastic bag-free world!Way to go!Hopefully our Florida leaders will make a note and follow suit,as well as the rest of the country and the world.

Some of you people (Teabaggers) are acting like its armaggedon.

Freaking its simple, you've been killing dolphins, poisoning the landfills, and otherwise destroying this world needlessly (every week or so) -- for what? To follow a TRADITION of using something (crappy plastic bags) that have a more efficient way (reusable bags).

If someone forgot their reusable bags, they can buy some more -- or they can buy a paperbag (meaning its a better value to buy the reusable bag). Its better for your children, its better for the environment, its better for animals that suffocate on them, its better economics. Its win-win-win except for the plastic (re: the petroleum, etc) industry.

Sorry, but you drama queens should shut up and think before crying and weeping about something so outdated as a plastic bag. Why don't you just use shoe-sized cellphones, wear your pagers, and go smoke cigarettes in front of babies when youre done weeping.

People liked plastic bags only because they were free (LESSON LEARNED: nothing in life is free) and have handles. Well, we keep handles. The "free" was actually on the backs of our children and our environment. So time to pay the piper, polluters.

I hope this goes state-wide.

The real way to do this is to use a sort of "gas tank" approach -- bring in your dirty bags, the store gives you clean ones and washes the dirty ones. Just like bringing in an empty gas tank from your bbq. They save money on the plastic bags, so no reason to charge.

They wont stop with plastic until its illegal, because idiots like the crybabies keep asking for stuff that kills our world just because its familiar, not because its better.

Terrible, just have to shop at none county area stores.

Wow. Plastic bags and Happy Meal toys are the top issues facing this state. Thank god we have politicians willing to tackle these tough issues..

Anyone who ever has seen sea turtles die from eating plastic bags they think are jelly-fish will cheer this decision. Kudos to the Supervisors for taking a stand. Once upon a time we got along just fine with paper bags and canvas bags or nets, and we will get along just fine without plastic bags.

Now if only LA City Council will MAN UP and follow suit.

OMG.... I'll just bring (or request) a box from the back room instead so i wont have to woory about the bag or the 10 cent "fee".

If the penalty for littering with your plastic bag was $10,000 and a year in jail, you wouldn't have to worry about them being dropped in the ocean because no one would ever risk it.

Some supermarkets in Mexico provide their customers with biodegradable plastic bags. I found a link:



Well, this one won't fly at all. They can try to ban it all they want, but when the Mom-and-Pop places in the high desert simply ignore it, as they should, then what are they goign to do?

Not only that, but what happens when the paper bags become 100% recycled paper by mandate and the per-unit cost goes above 10 cents?

BTW, the county attorney is wrong, because Prop 26 does not mention whether the fees are collected by government or not. If they call it a fee, it's subject to the vote, period.

That, and price-fixing for paper bags is unconstitutional, since it interferes with private contracts.

The simple solution for the stores is to offer a 10-cent-per-bag discount to cancel out the illegal fee.

I don't see any acknowledgment of the recycle trash cans that are provided by most cities these days. Doesn't that count as recycling? I wouldn't bother bringing them back to the store unless they paid something for them, and other than that, I put them in the recycle can. I didn't see any mention of that fact.

This is awesome - think of the positive impact this could have; plastic bags cost money to the business supplying them. If we all bring our own bags, there should be a theoretical dip in pricing overall because operational costs would be lower.
Think of the overall expense that goes into cleaning up the ocean and streets.

This is beyond stupid.

Are the stores going to sell products such as baggies and large trash bags? I'm sorry but to a New Englander, California makes no sense whatsoever.

you people are lunatics.......quit trying to control my life.

This ban will accomplish nothing.

This is gonna turn out just like the low flow valves on toilets.....it actually used more water because people had to flush multiple times to get the crap down and ended up using more water int eh process. Now our landfills will start to fill up with "re-usable" bags as they wear out.....way to go you indiots

all you people bitching about the "extra cost" shut up already.

10 bags is 1.00 more if they get the paper bags.

10 cents per bag is NOT going to bankrupt any one, not even poor people.

They sell clothe reusable bags cheap everywhere now. if you buy one a week, for a 1.00 each, then in 4 to 6 weeks you will have all your carrying needs taken care of.

I for one am tired of driving down the street and seeing plastic bags everywhere. stuck in bushes on the freeway, floating in the river and harbor.

seriously, get over it.

This is a very unfriendly measure for disable person having use crutch, cane, wheelchair or limited with the use of their appendages for carrying items. Especially given the difficult time these individuals have at getting employed. To expect such individuals to pay more or go without.

Where I live, plastic bags as well as trash is not a problem. It seems the real problem is not the bags themselves, but the people who could not care less about their own neighborhoods. How about doing away with them?


They are addressing an unbelievably small fraction of the problem. How about the incorporated areas?

This is the best news I've received in a long time. Congrats to the government in LA County for passing this historic environmental reform! Maybe it will take a little tiny chunk our of Garbage Island (google it for those of you who don't know about it). Garbage Island is bigger than the BP Oil Spill but no one is talking about it. The pollution is larger than Texas and it's all plastic. Maybe our water (if we continue on this good path) will continue to stay safe for future generations. I can only hope. I'm going to go play in the ocean now. It's finally going to be cleaner. YAY!!!

I think it's a great idea and I really hope that it works. Time will tell.

Dan Durazo

Just in our local news. ALL the cloth bags are made in CHINA have LEAD IN THEM! USE THE PLASTIC

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