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L.A. County poised to pass strict ban on plastic grocery bags [Updated]

November 16, 2010 | 10:45 am

Bags Los Angeles County supervisors were poised Tuesday to impose one of the most stringent bans on disposable grocery bags in the country.

The proposal calls for a ban on plastic grocery bags and a 10-cents-per-paper-bag surcharge in unincorporated areas of the county -- areas not governed by a city council -- which cover a population of nearly 1.1 million people.

The ban would be the most restrictive in California and nationwide, said Mark Gold, president of the environmental group Heal the Bay.

San Francisco's ban is less restrictive because it does not ban bioplastic bags made from corn starch, which do not biodegrade in the ocean, and Malibu's ban does not levy a surcharge on paper bags, Gold said.

[Updated at 11:50 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed Gold's statements to Matthew King, a spokesman for Heal the Bay.]

In contrast, the proposed L.A. County ordinance seeks to end consumers' reliance on disposable bags, either plastic or paper, and move them toward using reusable bags to carry out their groceries.

In advance of the vote, dozens of environmentalists gathered Tuesday in front of the Hall of Administration to rally in support of the ban, cognizant of strong opposition from the plastic-bag manufacturers' lobbying arm and the American Chemistry Council. At least 60 people were at the supervisors' meeting to speak on the topic.

The Legislature had been expected to implement a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags, but the measure failed to pass the state Senate in the final hours of the legislative session at the end of August, amid intense lobbying by the plastic-bag industry.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the county would have preferred a statewide ban, but is now moving forward on its own.

"These bags end up in our storm drains. They then end up in our oceans. Marine life get caught up in these bags. ... They eat it. It damages marine life," Yaroslavsky said. "It puts our great natural resource, and economic resource, called our coastline and marine life at great risk."

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

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the proposed ordinance would be a model for the 88 city councils in L.A. County to adopt, as well as provide a template to push Sacramento to impose a statewide ban.

"We will get this passed statewide," Ridley-Thomas said. "Don’t you dare give up. We've done too much to turn around now."

UPDATE: County passes sweeping ban on plastic grocery bags


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration

Photo: James Alamillo, left, and Amada Griesbach, both from Heal the Bay, walk down Temple Street in downtown Los Angeles for a rally outside the Hall of Administration in support of a ban on plastic bags. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times