It's official - the Plastic Bag Ban in unincorporated Los Angeles County took effect yesterday, Friday July 1st. The ban initially impacts large retailers, preventing them from dispensing sold items in plastic bags and instead requiring them to use paper bags only. Cost of the change will be passed along to consumers who will be charged 10 cents a bag, unless they bring their own reusable tote bags. Eventually the ban will include smaller, independent stores. An overview of the ban was detailed by the LA Times:
The bag ban was touted by county supervisors as an environmental measure to rid the county of "urban tumbleweed" that pollutes landfills and gets washed out to sea. Paper bags will still be available, but customers will be charged 10 cents per bag.
The effort is intended to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags to the market for shopping.
The plastic bag ban will affect anyone who shops at stores outside the county's incorporated cities, such as the communities of Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Altadena, La Crescenta, Topanga Canyon, Marina del Rey, Baldwin Hills, Athens, Willowbrook, Florence, Rancho Dominguez, Valencia, East Pasadena and East Los Angeles. About 1.1 million people in the county live in the unincorporated areas.
Although some remain critical of the ban, this is a big environmental victory that should have long-term benefits for waterways throughout Southern California and beyond (see the Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize winning series on the ocean - Part 4 for more information on plastic bags effects). Although incorporated areas of Los Angeles remain unaffected, the ban still impacts 1.1 million people, a figure that only 8 US cities (not including Los Angeles) have populations larger than. In other words, this limited action by the County of Los Angeles actually produces a massive civic-sponsored change in urban function, pointing out how the scale of Los Angeles is not just a challenge, but also an immense opportunity to exploit. While we tend to focus on ways in which mistakes are magnified by the sheer size of Los Angeles, this ban highlights how small positive changes can also become monumental shifts for the benefit of the environment.