A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Monday, June 4, 2012

No Hollywood ending for plastic bags in L.A.

Published: May 24th, 2012 By Heather Caliendo in Plastics Today

Los Angeles made history this week and it's not for any reasons related to Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian.

As we reported earlier, the L.A. City Council voted 13-1 on Wednesday to phase out plastic bags over the next 12 months at an estimated 7,500 stores, which made L.A. the largest city in the nation to ban plastic bags.

Once this law is enacted, consumers will need to bring reusable bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each.

L.A. now joins 47 other California cities that have also banned plastic bags.

But this is L.A., a population of 4 million people. Once the law is set in stone, it's hard not to wonder, what's next? How will this ban impact the L.A. community? And will it cause other cities to follow suit?

It's important to note, the city will study the issue again in two years to see whether the 10-cent fee was enough to reduce paper bags.

Trash facts
This ban came after years of outcry from various environmental groups who state that banning single-use plastic bags will help reduce the amount of trash in landfills, and in the city's waterways and oceans.

In fact, I recently talked with Miriam Goldstein, lead author of a study that reported the amount of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean has grown 100-fold in the past 40 years.

"I think everyone - activists, scientists, and the industry, agrees plastic has no place in the ocean," she told me.

An estimated 12 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, with about 2.7 billion plastic bags in L.A. alone, but less than 5% of the state's plastic bags are recycled, according to clean-water advocates.

Members of the L.A. City Council said that 43% of Los Angeles' trash is plastic and that the largest component of that plastic is plastic bags at 19%.

Potential jobs impact
Now here's the next item to consider: how will this bag ban impact jobs? Reports from the city council meeting stated that 750 jobs at companies making plastic bags in the area are not in the city, but in the county.

According to the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an organization representing the U.S. plastic bag manufacturing and recycling sector, which employs 30,800 workers in 349 communities across the nation, about 1,900 plastic bag manufacturing and recycling employees are located in California.
As you can image, the L.A. bag ban did not go over well with the organization.

"Bag bans have not been proven to reduce litter," said Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance. "With this draconian bag ban, the city takes a simplistic approach that misses an opportunity to provide a more effective solution for consumers and the environment - programs that encourage greater recycling of plastic and paper bags and preserve jobs."

Is recycling the answer?
Many in the plastics industry argue that instead of banning plastic bags, there needs to be better management of the material and an increase awareness of recycling. Recycling the material could be a comprehensive approach to litter prevention.

A study by Moore Recycling Associates stated more than 91% of the U.S. population can recycle their plastic bags locally.

Here are a few tidbits about recycling plastic bags and wraps, according to the American Chemistry Council:
  • Plastic bags and wraps aren't typically recycled in curbside programs, but they are widely recycled through located collection bins at grocery and retail stores.
  • Check local grocer or retailer (e.g., Target, Lowe's) to see if they collect plastic bags and/or wraps. Most stores provide a bin at the entrance or sometimes at the checkout area.
  • When recycled, plastic bags and wraps can be made into new bags and wraps, durable outdoor decks and fences, homebuilding products, and lots of other things.
To wrap up this post, if more local governments begin to ban plastic bags, the industry may feel a ripple effect across all sectors.

Talk with us about your thoughts regarding the L.A. bag ban.

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