By Edwin Folven, 8/09/2012
Large stores will have six months to comply
The West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags on Monday that will be phased in over the next year.
The council followed the lead of Los Angeles city and county, and other cities such as Santa Monica and Pasadena, which have already outlawed single-use plastic shopping bags. The council will consider the ban again on second reading at its next meeting, a routine formality in West Hollywood, and it will go into effect after an additional 30 days. The city will conduct public outreach during the first six-months, during which single-use plastic bags will remain available. After six months, stores with more than 10,000 square feet of space, primarily supermarkets, will be prohibited from offering the single-use plastic bags. The ban will go into effect for all businesses in the city after one year.
According to Bianca Seigl, a senior planner for West Hollywood, large stores will still be able to offer single-use paper bags, but will be required to charge 10 cents per bag. Seigl said the stores affected after six months include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Pavilions, Vons, Best Buy and Target, and that the retailers already encourage customers to bring re-usable shopping bags or don’t provide plastic shopping bags. West Hollywood has approximately 890 retail stores, but the ban would only affect approximately 490 stores, as the remaining retailers provide services and do not use single-use plastic shopping bags.
West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang said the ban addresses the environmental problems associated with single-use plastic shopping bags, as well as the economic issues with paying for clean up.
“Plastic bags have an enormous environmental impact throughout the county. They litter the streets and streams and the ocean,” Prang said. “It also takes a tremendous amount of resources to produce them, and then they are used once and thrown away.”
Seigl said the city has been considering a plastic shopping bag ban for the past four years, but took a gradual approach because of litigation that occurred with other cities that were also passing bans. West Hollywood’s ordinance was modeled after laws already approved in L.A. city and county, and city officials believe there is less likelihood of a lawsuit now that the bans are spreading countywide.
“There were some legal challenges, and we decided to let those legal challenges expire before we implemented our ban,” Prang said. “We decided to take a back seat until that was resolved.”
Matthey King, communication director for Heal the Bay, said West Hollywood’s ban will create more uniformity in the region.
“Heal the Bay has been working on this issue for many years, and is grateful to see that municipalities have recognized these bags are economically and environmentally wasteful,” King added
King said Heal the Bay holds clean-up events on a regular basis, and that single-use plastic shopping bags, along with cigarette butts and plastic water bottles, are the most prevalent litter found in streams, storm drains and coastal waters.
“Heal the Bay volunteers have cleaned up over a million pounds of trash from Southern California shorelines over the past twenty years,” King added. “The key thing is people have to understand is that there is an economic impact. Public works spends a lot of money cleaning this stuff up, and that is money we would rather see go to schools and other worthy causes.”
King added that the Legislature is currently considering a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which will provide uniformity throughout California. AB298, authored by Assemblywomen Julia Brownley (D-Los Angeles), is currently being considered in the State Senate.