Los Angeles

“The Sequel”: LA's Plastic Bag Ban Expands to Smaller Stores

Now, the ban will cover about 5,000 shops with less than 10,000 square feet of retail space or that gross less than $2 million annually in sales

In a move dubbed "the sequel" to Los Angeles' ban on plastic grocery bags, smaller stores will be forced to follow suit and remove single-use plastic bags from their shops starting Tuesday.

The plastic bag ban went into effect in January for thousands of supermarkets, drugstores and convenience stores. Smaller stores had six months to adjust to the new law.

The expansion has been called "the sequel" to the ban at major grocers by LA City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose office spearheaded the effort to ban plastic bags in the city.

"In part two, beginning tomorrow, these flimsy, polluting, choking plastic bags will no longer be allowed at the little mom-and-pop stores either," Koretz said.

Now, the ban will cover about 5,000 shops with less than 10,000 square feet of retail space or that gross less than $2 million annually in sales, including liquor stores. These shops carry a small selection of grocery items including milk, bread, soda and snack foods.

Stores must offer paper or reusable plastic bags to customers who do not bring their own for 10 cents per bag.

"Not everybody has an extra 10 cents in their pocket," deli owner Johnny Angiuli said. "Every day you go shopping, they charge you 10 cents, sometimes you have to buy a lot of groceries. It costs a lot of money."

Free reusable bags are being given out at 20 stores around the city, including La Tropicana in Highland Park, Whole Foods in Sherman Oaks, India Sweets & Spices in Canoga Park and El Super in Wilmington.

Clear plastic bags used for produce, meat or pharmacy items are not included in the ban.

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

The LA City Council passed the ban last June, making Los Angeles the most populous city in the nation to do so.

"If you look around our neighborhoods and freeways, plastic bags have largely vanished. It's wonderful," Koretz said. "I'm certain we're having the same positive impact keeping literally billions of plastic bags from our rivers and oceans."

The city joined LA County and a long list of other cities that already have bans in place, including Long Beach, West Hollywood, Culver City, Huntington 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 effort to ban single-use plastic bags is underway by state Sen. Alex Padilla, a former Los Angeles city councilman.

His bill, SB 270, would make consumers pay at least a dime per reusable plastic bag at supermarkets, liquor and convenience stores, and pharmacies in California.

The reusable bags would need to be made up of at least 20 percent recycled material, and strong enough to be used more than 100 times. Over time, the bags would be increased to 40 percent recycled material,

It would also address long-running concerns that a ban may lead to job loss among plastic bags industry workers, while ensuring single-use plastic bags no longer "fill our landfills, clog inland waterways, litter our coastline and kill thousands of fish, marine mammals and seabirds."

Under the bill, plastic bag businesses would be able to apply for loans or grants to help them transition into manufacturing reusable bags, with the caveat that the companies keep the same workers, Padilla said.

Ted Chen contributed to this report.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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