Environment & Science

LA City Council gives plastic bag ban final approval

Customers of Ralphs supermarket use plastic bags to carry their groceries home on October 25, 2011 in Glendale.
Customers of Ralphs supermarket use plastic bags to carry their groceries home on October 25, 2011 in Glendale.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance that makes Los Angeles the most populous city in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags.

The ordinance will take effect Jan. 1 for large stores and six months later for smaller stores.

The council voted 9-1 in support of the ban, with Councilman Bernard Parks casting Tuesday's lone dissenting vote, making official their tentative approval last week.

Under the law, customers would be required to provide their own reusable bags when they visit stores, or pay 10 cents each for paper bags.

Activists said a plastic bag ban would lead to cleaner beaches, storm drains, rivers and other public spaces that tend to become the final resting places for the non-biodegradable bags. Representatives of plastics companies countered that it would cost jobs, while other s contended reusable bags are prone to germs and posed a health risk.

To help make ban easier, the city plans to hand out about 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas, and women who get food benefits through the Women, Infants and Children program would be exempted from the ban.

The city spends about $2 million a year to clean up plastic bag litter, and the implementation of a ban would result in the loss of 15 jobs at companies within the city, the council was told.

The law is similar to one adopted by Los Angeles County. Other cities in California, such as San Francisco and Santa Monica, also have plastic bag bans.

A statewide ban proposed by former City Councilman and current Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, was defeated in May.

The local ban will take effect Jan. 1 for stores that gross more than $2 million a year or are housed in more than 10,000 square feet.

Starting July 1, 2014, the ban will include liquor stores, and independent markets that carry limited groceries but have staples such as milk and bread.

Proceeds from the 10-cent charge for recyclable paper bags will be kept by stores and used only to recoup the costs of the bags and comply with the city ban. It also will pay for  for materials to promote reusable bags.

Stores will be required to file quarterly reports on the number of paper bags given out, how much money the store receives for those bags and efforts to promote reusable bags.