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Out with plastic bags, in with paper

Not all bags banned; free reusable ones offered

City News Service | 1/2/2014, 12:14 p.m.
One of the biggest new laws to go into effect in the city of Los Angeles as the new year ...
No plastic bags

One of the biggest new laws to go into effect in the city of Los Angeles as the new year starts is a ban on single-use plastic bags.

Shoppers in the city of Los Angeles need to bring their own reusable bags to grocery stores, now that a ban on single-use plastic bags has gone into effect, and those who do not will either need to pay 10 cents for brown paper bags or go without.

Many of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities have already phased-out the flimsy bags sometimes blamed for choking marine life, but the city of Los Angeles is by far the most populous, with an estimated 228,000 bags distributed per hour. The ban went into effect Wednesday.

Absent the availability of plentiful and free single-use carryout grocery bags, millions of grocery shoppers will now be faced with shedding their plastic bag habit in favor of bringing reusable bags to supermarkets like Ralphs and Vons, drug stores like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, and even some convenience stores like 7-Eleven.

Stores like Wal-Mart and Target that also sell groceries must stop handing out single-use plastic bags as well. The ban’s initial rollout will apply to any grocery retailer that makes at least $2 million in gross annual sales or is housed in at least 10,000 square feet of retail space.

Paper bags will cost 10 cents each. Reusable bags will also be available, either free-of-charge or for sale.

The plastic bag ban and accompanying 10-cent charge for paper bags will expand to smaller shops and convenience marts starting July 1.

Not all plastic bags will be banned. Clear plastic sacks for produce and meat, as well as bags for pharmacy items, will still be available and free to shoppers. Restaurants, department stores and other shops that do not carry grocery items are exempt from the ban.

Stores have been reminding customers since November of the impending ban via placards and a public outreach campaign.

Grocery retailers could be fined for each day they violate the ban. They could be fined up to $100 for the first violation, as much as $200 for the second, and up to $500 for the third.

To help ease the transition, the city is handing out about 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas. Participants of SNAP, WIC and EBT programs will get reusable bags or recyclable paper bags free-of-charge.

The Los Angeles City Council passed the ban in June, making Los Angeles, with its more than 3.8 million residents, the most populous city in the nation to do so. The city thus joined Los Angeles County and a long list of other cities that already have bans in place, including West Hollywood, Culver City, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica, Glendale and Pasadena.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to adopt a plastic bag ban.

A statewide ban proposed by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, a former Los Angeles councilman, was defeated in May.