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Los Angeles City Council to vote on plastic bag ban

May 23, 2012 |  9:04 am

Plastic bag ban

The Los Angeles City Council is on track to prohibit plastic bags at supermarket checkout lines, a proposal long sought by clean-water advocates who say the bags pollute the ocean and the city's waterways.

Eight of the council's 15 members told The Times they are prepared to move forward Wednesday with a plastic bag ban at an estimated 7,500 stores. An equal number voiced doubts about a similar ban on paper bags, which was first backed by appointees of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Board of Public Works.

The council will take up the bag proposals at its 10 a.m. meeting.

Several council members, including Ed Reyes, Dennis Zine and Herb Wesson, said L.A.'s plastic bag ban should be in sync with an ordinance enacted by Los Angeles County, which allows paper bags to be handed out by supermarket clerks for a small fee.

"We need to have something that's consistent, where Los Angeles does not stand alone and everyone else has another plan," Zine said.

The proposal heading to the council would:

• Give large retailers a six-month phase-out period before banning plastic single-use bags;

• Give small retailers a 12-month phase-out period before banning plastic single-use bags;

• Require all retailers to charge 10 cents per paper bag beginning one year after enactment of the program and thereafter.

Plastic bag manufacturers have opposed the plan, saying it would force them to lay off employees.

The five-member Board of Public Works had argued last year that paper bags lead to deforestation and should also be included in the ban. However, board President Andrea Alarcon signaled this week that the paper bag prohibition may be stalling.

"The most environmentally sound policy is a ban on both plastic and paper bags," she wrote in an email. "However, I understand that moving in that direction will likely occur over time and require a period of transition."

The council's Energy and Environment Committee voted last month to endorse a phase-out of both paper and plastic, saying such a move would spur consumers to switch to more environmentally friendly reusable ones.

But Councilman Jose Huizar, who heads that panel, watered down that plan in recent days. Under Huizar's rewritten plan, the Bureau of Sanitation would issue a report in two years on whether to end paper-bag use as well.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Reusable bags sold at Ralphs. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times