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Would You Like Paper or Paper? L.A.’s Mission to Ditch Plastic Bags

The city is looking to become the largest municipality in the country to ban the polluting bags.

Would You Like Paper or Paper? L.A.’s Mission to Ditch Plastic Bags
Plastic Bags via Shutterstock

Los Angeles is poised to become the country’s biggest cities to ditch plastic bags in shops, after its city council voted 11 to 1 to approve a ban on Tuesday.

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The new law, once it gets final approval by the mayor, will slowly phase out beach-polluting plastic bags, starting with big stores on January 1 but then hitting smaller stores by summer of 2014. Shoppers will have the option to buy paper bags for 10 cents, or do the farmers’ market thing at Walmart and show up with a tote bag.

Los Angeles joins 76 other cities and counties in California that have already passed similar legislation, including Los Angeles County itself (which only regulates unincorporated areas of the county). According to Southern California Public Radio:

Some of the councilmembers who gave the ban a nod say it comes with an economic upside, and not just for reusable bag makers. An EPA study found that California’s coastal cities spend upwards of 420 million dollars a year cleaning up debris. [Councilman Paul] Krekorian says it’s not just plastic bags the council wants to keep from washing into the gutter–it’s money the city badly needs to help replenish its coffers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Businesses that fail to comply with the law would face a fine of $100 after the first violation, $200 after the second and $500 after the third. Fines would be imposed for each day the violation continues.”

Environmentalists have been pushing for such an ordinance for years (San Francisco passed the nation’s first plastic bag ban in 2007), but fierce lobbying from the plastics industry had slowed down its passing. At the state level, the California senate has voted against a plastic bag ban five times, as recently as last month. Perhaps L.A.’s new ban is a sign that California as a whole is ready to ditch plastic bags for good.

About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in TheAtlantic.com, NYMag.com, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere.

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