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Los Angeles Considers Plastic & Paper Bag Ban
Vol. 850 
September 13, 2011

A lawmaker in Los Angeles has introduced legislation that would prohibit all grocery stores in the city from providing paper and plastic bags, and instead require them to give away or sell only reusable totes. The proposed measure is far more sweeping than current laws in cities like San Francisco, where plastic bags are banned, but paper bags are still permitted. "We're taking the next step," said Los Angeles City Councilor Paul Koretz, who has proposed the ban. "With paper bags, you're still generating litter."

According to a report produced by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, approximately 2.3 billion plastic bags and 400 million paper bags are issued annually in the city. Data shows only 5% of plastic bags and 21% of paper bags are recycled. Environmentalists believe that while plastic bags can be especially harmful in polluting waterways, paper bags can also create problems for an ecosystem. "We're hoping that more of these local policies will be a wake-up call," says Kirsten James, a spokesperson for watchdog group Heal the Bay.

Besides San Francisco, several other cities in California have recently banned the use of plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores. Santa Monica's ban, for example, went into effect on September 1. Officials in San Mateo and Millbrae will formally discuss potential bans at public meetings over the next month. To date, though, only Los Angeles is debating a plastic and paper bag ban.

Under the Los Angeles proposal, stores that ignore the ban would be fined, with an exemption granted for small plastic bags meant to keep raw vegetables and meats separated from other groceries. Before the ban can become law, the measure needs to be approved by the Los Angeles City Council's Energy and Environment Committee.

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