By Ted AYALA
Residents who have enjoyed finding alternative uses for plastic grocery bags –doggy deposit pick up, trash can liners, make-shift shower caps, you name it – may soon find themselves seeking out other options.
Beginning on Jan. 1, the second phase of Glendale’s plastic bag ban went into effect.
The first phase of the ordinance, which went into effect last July, prohibited the availability and distribution of plastic carryout bags at larger grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and food outlets with gross annual sales of $2 million or more. Now enforcement of the ordinance will be imposed on smaller vendors. Food marts, liquor stores, convenience stores and pharmacies will all be affected. Vendors at city-sponsored events or operating on city property are also now required to comply with the ban.
The ordinance, which was passed January 2013, met with some resistance from local residents. Inspiring the most objections was that the ordinance would require affected retailers to charge 10 cents for the use of paper carryout bags. Some residents complained of being charged for a service that had once been free. The 10 cents would go back to the retailers for use in educating the public on the ban.
“I’m here to urge you not to make it illegal for people to use plastic bags,” said Mona Montgomery, “because that’s not the way to fix the problem. The way to fix the problem is to enforce the laws you already have in place against littering. If you charged $50 or more every time you caught someone littering, [the city] would make a whole lot of money instead of creating this burden on the people [through this ordinance]. You’re using tyrannical methods to achieve [these] goals.”
Supporters of the ban said that the fee was necessary in order to encourage shoppers to opt for reusable bags instead.
Glendale City Council last year agreed to impose the charge citing the need for uniformity with other local municipalities that have enacted similar bans in recent years. Among those are Pasadena, South Pasadena, Altadena, Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
Last year, then-councilmember Dave Weaver suggested that what was needed was not a new ordinance, but rather for the city to enforce existing laws targeting litterers.
“It would be nice if we could catch [the litterbugs],” he said, “but we can’t even catch all the people that drive around like maniacs in this town.”
Fueling the efforts for these ordinances have been growing environmental awareness on the part of cities, especially regarding the tons of plastic bags that are carried off by city sewage systems and end up as litter in the ocean.
Heal the Bay responded with glowing praise for the city’s move in July.
“If you visit the Los Angeles River, you’re guaranteed to see the impact plastic bags have on our local environment as they dangle from trees, float on the water and entangle wildlife,” said the organization’s Communications Manager Anne Bergman. “It’s our hope that once [people] see how easy it is to bring our own reusable bags to the grocery store, we’ll begin to make further changes in our daily lives to reduce the amount of disposable plastic items we use.”