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Shoppers have mixed feelings about L.A. plastic bag ban

May 24, 2012 |  8:36 am


The Los Angeles City Council's decision to become the largest city in the nation to ban plastic grocery bags has generated mixed reaction from shoppers.

The City Council voted 13 to 1 Wednesday to phase out plastic bags over the next 16 months at an estimated 7,500 stores, meaning shoppers will need to bring reusable bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each.

The ban came after years of campaigning by clean-water advocates who said it would reduce the amount of trash in landfills, the region's waterways and the ocean. They estimate Californians use 12 billion plastic bags a year and that less than 5% of the state's plastic bags are recycled.

On the afternoon of the ban's approval, Beth Austin, a resident of Los Angeles, was holding one cloth bag and three plastic bags full of groceries at an Eagle Rock store.

"I wasn't expecting to come to the market after work today, and I have like 10 of these [cloth] bags at home and didn't want to buy another one," she said. "It does upset me that I have to use all these plastic bags sometimes, especially when some of the bags are not even strong and sturdy. I end up double bagging."

Austin usually travels by bus, and said that now with the ban in L.A., "I'll have to plan better in the future; always remember to put some bags in my purse before I leave for work in the morning."

William Doquin, 22, visiting L.A. from Paris, was pushing a cart filled with plastic bags of groceries and was pleased to hear of the council's vote.

"'I feel bad using all these plastic bags," he said. "Back at home, we usually take our own bags. It's good for the environment."

Sylvia Esparza, 22, heard about the ban on the news and said "it did surprise" her that a city as big as Los Angeles had made the move. 

"I try not to use plastic bags anyway," she said, noting she has a drawer full of reusable cloth bags at home. "So many people use so many plastic bags, and they just get thrown away. If you spend $1 on the cloth ones, you can take them wherever and use them for other stuff too."

Several cities -- including Long Beach, Santa Monica and San Jose -- as well as unincorporated sections of L.A. County already have some type of bag ban in place.

In a crowded parking lot outside El Super grocery store in East L.A., shoppers pushed carts full of groceries in logo-less brown paper bags or reusable bags.

One family didn't even bother with bags, loading two watermelons, a pineapple, bread and a box of sodas straight into their trunk. Veronica Perez, 32, a resident of Boyle Heights, shouldered a Trader Joe's reusable bag and tightly gripped a handle-less brown bag holding a loaf of bread.

"I wish we could use plastics bags," she said. "I wish they could bring them back. I get it's better for the environment, but it's a lot to remember -- bringing a reusable bag -- especially if you're in a rush."


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