Los Angeles City Council to vote on single-use, plastic- and paper-bag ban in markets

Shoppers may no longer have the option of either paper or plastic, if on Wednesday the Los Angeles City Council votes in favor of an ordinance banning both types of bags.

If passed, supermarkets and retail stores that sell food – such as drugstores – will be banned from distributing single-use plastic and paper bags. Reusable bags will be a suggested alternative for shoppers.

The measure is rooted in environmental concerns, said Andy Shrader, deputy of environmental affairs and sustainability for city councilman Paul Koretz. The office of Koretz, whose district includes Westwood, is spearheading the ordinance.

An estimated 2.3 billion plastic and 400 million paper single-use bags are used in the city annually, according to a report by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation.

“Plastic bags do not break down for many years,” said Nurit Katz, chief sustainability officer atUCLA. “Basically, there are decades where this plastic stays in the environment.”

Research accompanying the proposed ordinance also identifies the production of paper bags as a greater contributor to increased greenhouse gas emissions than plastic bags.

UCLA’s chapter of the California Public Interest Research Group has been campaigning in favor of the measure. In March, the Undergraduate Students Association Council voted unanimously to support CALPIRG’s campaign to ban plastic bags.

Chloe Groome, vice chair of UCLA’s CALPIRG chapter, said the endorsement was symbolically important because it shows the Los Angeles City Council that the UCLA student body supports a ban.

Companies like Crown Poly, a plastic manufacturing firm that distributes bags globally, are opposed to the measure.

Reusable polypropylene bags, one alternative to single-use plastic and paper bags, could have negative health impacts for consumers, said Cathy Browne, general manager at Crown Poly.

Browne said that plastic bags are a cleaner product than their prospective replacements because they do not contain heavy metals like the lead that is present in the polypropylene bags.

Other California cities and counties, including Santa Monica, Long Beach and Alameda County, have already instituted similar bans.

Los Angeles County has also banned bags designated as “single-use,” or plastic and paper bags often given at grocery stores and other retailers. The county ban affects unincorporated areas such as Baldwin Hills and Marina del Rey.

If the city council approves the proposed ordinance, the ban will extend to within the city limits of Los Angeles.

If passed, the ordinance will undergo an environmental review through the California Environmental Quality Act and be implemented in six to nine months, said Reina Pereira, a senior environmental engineer for the Bureau of Sanitation and one of the researchers for the legislation.

It is still unclear whether institutional-scale stores at UCLA, such as the market in Ackerman or the Hill Top Shop, will be affected by the ban, Pereira said. That would surface in the implementation process, she said.