Two years ago, Los Angeles officials voted to phase out the use of plastic bags. The ban, which went into effect at the beginning of this year, is now finally being expanded to include small convenience stores that sell dry groceries, canned goods or both nonfood and perishable items.
Large scale and chain grocery stores and supermarkets have had plastic bags banned since January, as well as having a 10 cent charge on paper bags, in an attempt to encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags. Plastic is bad, but paper isn’t the best either; the best option is reusable, and an effective ban on single-use plastic also requires encouraging people to go reusable. Now the city ban is going to the smaller convenience stores as well, something that shop owners are a bit nervous about as providing paper bags at a fee feels like risky business.
Shop owner Zaman Amini told the Los Angeles Times that when his customers complain about the fee, sometimes he gives them the paper bag for free in order to protect his business. “People don’t like the charges, so sometimes I don’t charge them,” Amini said. “I don’t want to lose customers.”
But for the City of Los Angeles, including small grocery stores and markets in the ban is essential in ensuring the overall effect of the ban. “We are more conscious about how these bags hurt the environment,” City Councilman Paul Krekorian said in a statement. “By expanding the ban to all grocery stores and markets, Los Angeles is truly showing our commitment to a more responsible and sustainable future.”
It’s not all plastic bags though. Clear plastic sacks for produce and meat are still available, as well as bags for pharmacy items. But at the checkout, you won’t be able to opt for the “plastic” option.
While the bag ban may pose a business dilemma for small stores that are concerned over customers who won’t be happy with a tax on paper, in terms of economics, the ban is a smart move for LA. A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that California spends about $500 million per year keeping trash out of its waterways; and a lot of that trash is plastic bags, which aren’t biodegradable. “Beginning in the 1960s, the growing dominance of plastic literally changed the landscape. Plastic grocery bags caked in the bottom of trash cans, accumulated in storm drains, caught on tree branches, and ended up in nearby arroyos and the ocean,” Gloria Molina, a supervisor for Los Angeles County, wrote in an opinion piece earlier this year.
Fortunately for California, Los Angeles isn’t the only city to ban plastic bags; currently in the state there have been 67 city ordinances to implement plastic bag bans or fees.
Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar