By Mary O’KEEFE
“Is plastic okay?” That question, usually inquired of shoppers at local grocery stores, will no longer be asked, at least not in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles.
On July 1, Ralphs Market in La Crescenta will no longer be offering plastic bags. Ralphs, along with all large grocery stores and pharmacies like Walgreens in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, will have customers walking out with reusable or paper bags. In January 2012, smaller mom and pop stores will also be adopting the plastic bag ban, voted in by the L.A. County board of supervisors in November 2010.
The ban is an effort by the board of supervisors to get consumers on the green bandwagon and to help the environment. In the past, volunteer efforts to cut the use of plastic bags had not been successful so the board voted to approve an ordinance banning plastic bag distribution in unincorporated county area stores. Consumers will now either bring reusable bags into the store to carry their purchases, carry them by hand or ask for a paper bag, which will cost 10 cents per bag.
“The 10-cent surcharge is part of the ruling from the [Los Angeles board of supervisors],” said Kendra Doyle, group vice president of Marketing and spokeswoman for Ralphs.
The money per bag goes to the store to help with the implementation of the ordinance, said Natalie Jimenez, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Public Works.
The L.A. County board of supervisors with a three-to-one vote passed the ordinance. Supervisor Don Knabe was absent and Supervisor Michael Antonovich was the nay vote concerned with the cost not only to small businesses but also to consumers.
“At a time of economic uncertainty and with large numbers of businesses leaving our state, this is not the appropriate time to impose additional regulations on businesses, and an additional tax on consumers,” said Antonovich in an email. “In place of draconian fees and regulations, educating our residents on the harm of illegally disposing their plastic bags can be effective in ensuring that these bags don’t end up on our beaches, and in our rivers, parks, and landfills.”
The financial downside was weighed against the environmental upside and the bags were banned. Many who spoke at the November supervisors’ meeting just before the vote applauded the effort by the county to ban the bags.
A study by Public Works ordered by the board found that, “Plastic single use bags account for as much as 25% of litter stream.” Each year, about six billion plastic bags are consumed in the County, which is equivalent to about 1,600 bags per household per year.
That litter must be cleaned up. According to the study, the public agencies in the state spend over $375 million each year for litter prevention, clean up and disposal.
In an effort to help consumers get ready for the ban, Public Works will be at affected stores throughout L.A. County distributing free reusable bags. They will be at Ralphs, 2675 Foothill Blvd. today from 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. Quantities are limited so it is advised to come early.
For information on the plastic bag ban visit dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/aboutthebag.