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Santa Monica approves ban on single-use plastic bags

January 26, 2011 |  8:38 am

The Santa Monica City Council has approved a ban on single-use plastic bags.

The council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve a ban affecting most retail outlets in the city beginning in September.

Under the ordinance, plastic bags will no longer be available at grocery stores, clothing shops or other retailers. The exception will be restaurants providing food and liquids for takeout. Vendors at the popular Santa Monica Farmers Markets will no longer provide single-use plastic or paper bags.

Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit group, called the action "one of the most aggressive" on single-use bags nationwide.

"Sending a powerful message that the plastic pollution plague can be abated, the vote furthers the recent momentum for enacting local bag measures throughout California," the group said in a statement.

Santa Monica joins other areas in California that have similar bans, including parts of Los Angeles County, Marin County and the city of San Jose. The city of Calabasas will consider a ban on plastic bags Tuesday.

Santa Monica had first planned to hear the item two years ago, but an industry group's threat of a lawsuit prompted the city to conduct an environmental review of the ordinance.

"The Santa Monica Council's leadership today shows that local governments are going to address this critical issue despite threats from industry and state inaction," said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. "The plastics industry knows the writing is on the wall."

Shoppers who forget their reusable bags may purchase paper bags at checkout for at least 10 cents each.

Heal the Bay said the measure seeks to end the "environmental and fiscal waste" created by the use of about 26 million single-use plastic shopping bags each year in the city of Santa Monica alone. California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste, the group said.

Yet fewer than 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide, with others filling space in landfills and harming animal life when the bags wind up in waterways. In offering his support for the measure, Santa Monica Councilman Richard Bloom also noted that many bags float on the breeze, creating hazards for motorists.


L.A. County passes sweeping ban on plastic bags

Will L.A. County's ban on plastic bags do any good?

-- Martha Groves