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L.A. mulls 10-cent fee for each paper bag taken at checkout line

April 4, 2012 |  8:01 am

L.A. mulls 10-cent fee for each paper bag taken at checkout line

This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

A key committee of the Los Angeles City Council will consider a proposal Wednesday to charge supermarket customers 10 cents for each paper bag they take on their way out of the checkout line.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city’s top budget analyst, recommended the fee as an alternative to an outright ban on paper supermarket bags.

While Santana said he is comfortable with a pending proposal to prohibit plastic grocery bags, he warned in a memo that a ban on paper bags would limit the choices of L.A. consumers.

“To our knowledge, very few communities have enacted a single-use [bag] ban that includes plastic and paper,” he wrote to the council’s Energy and Environment Committee, which will take up both the ban and the fee.

Santana’s recommendation is at odds with last year’s decision by the Board of Public Works, a five-member panel appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The board, which oversees the Bureau of Sanitation, recommended in October that the council ban both paper and plastic, saying such a move would improve the environment by keeping bags out of the ocean and other waterways.

That more sweeping proposal is backed by environmental groups such as Heal the Bay. Either strategy would apply to an estimated 7,500 stores, including supermarket chains, independent grocers, retailers that have pharmacies and convenience stores with a limited line of food products.

Business groups have been fighting the bag ban, saying it would harm the local economy during an economic downturn. Crown Poly, a manufacturing company based in Huntington Park, warned the proposed ordinance would cause it to eliminate somewhere between 20 and 130 positions.

“It’s going to negatively impact the company to the point where people would lose their jobs,” said Crown Poly general manager Cathy Browne.

[Updated, 12:20 p.m. April 4: Villaraigosa came out Wednesday in favor of a ban on both paper and plastic bags, calling them “a big source of pollutants.” But he also said that the county’s law, which prohibits plastic but not paper in unincorporated areas, may cause the city to take a similar approach.

“There needs to be consistency within the area and these are the things you have to weigh when considering the issue,” said Villaraigosa, in a statement provided by spokesman Peter Sanders.]

The bag issue is the first controversial proposal to come before the council's energy committee since Councilman Jose Huizar was named as its new chairman.

Council President Herb Wesson put Huizar in charge of the panel three months ago. Huizar replaced Councilwoman Jan Perry, who had called for more study of the bag ban last year.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Ralphs employee Miguel Andelon bags groceries for a customer in paper bags at Ralphs in Malibu. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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