Some will call it an environmental victory for landfills and waterways; others will call it a perilous step towards a “nanny state.” Wherever you may stand on the issue, there is no denying that within a few months plastic bags will be pretty hard to come by in Los Angeles. The city of Angels has become the latest of other smaller California cites, including San Jose, Long Beach and San Francisco, to ban the practice of handing out plastic bags in grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. This reframes reusable bags as more than just a trendy environmental statement, and something closer to a necessity.
An estimated 12 billion plastic bags are used each year by Californians alone, and less than 5% of those bags are ever recycled. This leaves a long film of plastic detritus all over California streets, parks, waterways, and shores. So while this probably should have been something enacted years ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted 13 to 1 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. This makes it the nations largest city to adopt a no plastic policy, which can only mean sweeping, but maybe not swift, changes in city policies and their rejection of plastic. Five years ago San Francisco approved the state’s first plastic bag ban, with much fanfare and lasting success.
While most on the city council, as well as many LA residents, will show support for the ban, some will obviously bristle and reject such a ban. There was a significant lobby by employees of plastic bag companies wanting to save their jobs (along with those who hold a controlling interest in such companies) to not enact such a ban and impose a greater recycling effort. Needless to say, a ban was seen as preferable to an unreliable recycling effort.
What is your feeling about an out and out ban on plastic bags? Is it too draconian, or not enough to insure environmental health? Is there a less drastic measure that could be taken to address environmental concerns and maintain jobs? What should be banned next?