On Wednesday, May 23rd, Los Angeles became the largest U.S. city to pass a plastic bag ban with a 13 to 1 vote by the Los Angeles City Council. As a Los Angeles resident and ocean enthusiast, I was thrilled!
When plastic shopping bags were first introduced in 1977, no one had an inkling of the environmental consequences coming down the road. Now more than 30 years later, plastic bags are everywhere and not in a good way.
In Los Angeles, I’ve seen plastic bags flying out of garbage trucks on the freeway, trapped in trees, floating in the ocean, lounging at the beach, being picked at by birds, and the list goes on and on. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, then I have to read about a dead gray whale that had 20 plastic bags in its stomach and turtles that eat plastic bags thinking they’re sea jellies.
After the plastic bag ban passed, environmentalists celebrated, but some people were not happy. I understand that change is always a bit scary, but we managed to survive pretty well without plastic bags up until 1977, so I think Los Angeles residents will find a way to make this work. Many surrounding areas, including the City of Santa Monica and the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, have already made the leap and seem to be doing fine. Plus, the ban won’t be implemented right away, so people still have time to prepare.
One complaint that I found a bit strange was a concern about getting salmonella; I guess this is a reference to not being able to put meat (chicken and turkey) in a separate plastic bag. But meat is already packaged to death, usually in Styrofoam with a tight plastic wrap covering everything. As someone who never uses a separate plastic bag to wrap around meat that’s already wrapped in plastic, rest assured, you will be fine. Also, if the plastic wrap around the meat breaks for some reason, you can always wash your reusable bag in the washing machine.
Another concern about the plastic bag ban is its potential impact on low-income residents. If people don’t have a reusable bag they will have to pay 10 cents for a paper bag. I agree this is a concern, but I have great confidence that by the time the ban is officially enacted that people, organizations and companies will rally to make sure everyone has reusable bags. In fact, many organizations and companies already give out free reusable bags as a marketing tool. Plus, I’m sure the city will take this into consideration as they work out the details of implementing the ban.
Then there were people who were upset that they won’t get free plastic bags anymore because they use them for picking up dog poop and lining their garbage cans. Yes, it’s a bummer not to get free plastic bags anymore, but think how you are helping the planet. By supporting the Los Angeles plastic bag ban you are helping take 2.7 billion plastic bags out of the environment every year!
My hope is that this change will generate new and innovative solutions to people’s concerns about living with fewer plastic bags. For example, you can order BioBags that are biodegradable, which is a thousand times better than plastic bags that take more than 1,000 years to break down, if ever. (You will have to ask someone in 1,000 years.) It’s rare to have all the answers at the moment change takes place, but don’t worry solutions will appear, have faith!