By Rafael Guerrero, 2/24/2011
Decision Designed to Protect the Environment
The choice of paper or plastic bags at West Hollywood supermarkets may no longer be a choice at all as members of the city council have begun the process to draft an ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags in the city.
Councilmembers Abbe Land and Jeffrey Prang introduced the motion at the West Hollywood City Council meeting Tuesday. The council voted to begin the process of compiling an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to give the city attorney the information necessary to begin drafting an ordinance to ban plastic bags.
“The bags are having a tremendous impact on marine life and landfills and we want to get them out of circulation,” Land said.
According to the California Coastal Commission, there are over 250,000 species in the ocean that have been affected by plastic bags floating in their habitat. The bags also cause problems in landfills because of the time they take to decompose.
Prang also added that the plastic bags have “an enormous impact on landfills and ocean pollution,” and councilmember Lindsey Horvath also commented on the effects the bags have on landfills.
“Plastic bags are difficult to recycle, don’t decompose quickly and also prevent other waste in our landfills from decomposing at a normal rate,” Horvath said.
Horvath replaced councilman Sal Guarriello after he passed away in April 2009. He was one of the authors of the initial attempt to pass a ban on plastic bags in 2008 along with Land, but the motion never got off the ground because of threatened lawsuits against other cities which attempted to pass a ban.
“We were all set to start the groundwork in 2008,” Land said. “But Manhattan Beach was working on a similar ban and was threatened with lawsuits and we decided to wait and see how that played out.”
Los Angeles County passed a ban in November 2010 that prohibited the use of plastic bags in non-incorporated areas, opening the door for other cities to pass similar legislation. The ban covered 1,000 stores, requiring major supermarket chains to remove plastic bans by July, and all other stores to do the same by Jan. 1, 2012. The legislation also allows for stores to charge a 10 cent surcharge for the use of paper bags to cover the store’s costs. Plastic bags used to separate fruits and vegetables to keep them from getting contaminated are exempt from the ban. Last month, Santa Monica also passed a ban on plastic bags with many similarities to L.A. County’s ban. Santa Monica’s ban will go into effect in September.
“We are now following the path of other cities like Santa Monica,” Prang said.
There are a handful of supermarkets and many more smaller stores that would be affected by a ban on plastic bags. Requests for comment from Ralphs’ corporate office were not returned.
Land said the city will decide on who will perform the EIR within the next month and expects the report and ordinance to be completed a in a few months.
“We have a ways to go but we are moving the process forward,” Land said. “
Prang hoped the ordinance would be done by the end of the year and had a prediction for the future of plastic bags.
“The era of the plastic bag must come to an end,” Prang said.