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Judge Upholds Plastic Bag Ban
Vol. 906 
March 29, 2012

A California Superior Court judge has upheld a Los Angeles County ordinance that bans grocery stores from providing plastic bags to customers. In making his ruling, Judge James Chalfant rejected arguments made by plastic bag manufacturers who believe the ordinance is unconstitutional. "The ordinance permits the stores to defray the cost of the bags, the cost of educating customers on the benefits of using reusable bags, and the cost of complying with the ordinance," Chalfant said.

Petitioners, including Hilex Poly – the nation's largest producer of single-use plastic bags – had maintained that the ordinance violates Proposition 26, which prohibits certain taxes that aren’t submitted to a popular vote. In addition to banning the use of plastic bags, the Los Angeles ordinance requires that stores charge customers 10 cents for each paper bag. Hilex Poly argued the paper bag fee is a tax, but Chalfant said the county hasn’t gained financially from the 10-cent charge, meaning Proposition 26 would not apply. "All of these uses benefit the stores, and none benefits the county as a government agency," he said.

This is third time, without success, that the plastic bag industry has tried to block similar bans through legal means. Previous California court rulings in Manhattan Beach and Marin County also upheld bans. Still, plastic bag manufacturers intend to appeal Chalfant’s decision, hoping for a higher court reversal. "We anticipate the appellate courts will ultimately strike down the illegal bag tax imposed by LA County," said James Parrinello, an attorney representing plastic bag manufacturers. "We always knew this wasn’t going to get resolved at the lower court level."

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