By Ted AYALA
Following the examples of neighboring cities such as Los Angeles and Pasadena, Glendale City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to set the foundation for a ban on plastic grocery bags. The ordinance will return to the agenda next week for final approval.
“The impetus for their measure,” said director of Public Works Steve Zurn, “was the negative impacts of the issuance of over 6 billion plastic bags in the county per year.”
Glendale City Council in October 2011 directed Public Works to draft a proposal for a similar ban for the city. Using calculations derived from the county’s figures, Zurn estimated that 160 million plastic bags were issued in Glendale alone. Where Glendale’s ban parts ways with the county’s ordinance is in extending the prohibition of plastic bags to events held on city property. That would include venues such as the Montrose Farmer’s Market and other city-sponsored events.
“[The city] has to set the example,” said Zurn.
The ban, which should pass its final review next week, would be in enacted in two stages: the first six months affecting grocery stores over 10,000 sq. ft. in size or that gross over $2 million in revenue annually, then later to remaining small retail stores. A total of 164 stores would be affected by this ordinance.
A point of contention in many regions that have enacted similar bans is the requirement that stores collect a 10-cent fee for providing customers paper bags that had previously been free. The point of the fee, say supporters, is to encourage customers to use reusable bags instead of relying on disposable bags. Zurn also added that the fee would be used by retailers to offset the costs of purchasing bags and for use in educating their customers about reusable bags. The fee is charged per bag used.
Councilmember Rafi Manoukian expressed puzzlement at the contradictory nature of the fee.
“That’s what doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It’s kind of odd, actually, that [the city tells retailers] to collect that money, but you’re going to keep it, too.”
Another expressing his reservations about this particular section of the ordinance was Councilmember Ara Najarian who said that he was afraid it would “impose too much governmental control on what a retailer wants to charge or not charge their customers.”
Despite these misgivings, the members of the public in attendance were wholly in support of the ordinance. Among the people that stepped up to the dais in support of the measure was Michael Reed, who teaches a course on the environment at Glendale Community College.
“We should never forget that plastics […] are made from petro-chemicals,” he said. “They do not organically break down. While we take their [convenience] for granted, [as litter] they build up in our eco-systems. They break into very small, microscopic pieces, but are never [absorbed] into the eco-system.”
Referring to approval of the ordinance as a “no-brainer,” Councilmember Dave Weaver referred to a recent clean up of the Arroyo Seco by Pasadena.
“They said it was a dramatic improvement [after banning] one-time use plastic bags,” he said. “It really reduced the amount of rubbish in the Arroyo Seco. So it’s inevitable, it’s got to happen. We’ll join the crowd [of cities that banned plastic bags].”