Paul Sakuma/AP/File
This June 2010 file photo shows a customer putting plastics bags in a recycling bin at a grocery store in Palo Alto, Calif. The Los Angeles City Council has voted to move forward with a controversial ban on single-use plastic grocery bags.

Los Angeles to become largest US city banning plastic bags

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-to-1 to move forward with a controversial ban on single-use plastic grocery bags. Critics say it’s an example of regulatory overreach.

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to move forward with a controversial ban on single-use plastic grocery bags – a move designed to reduce landfill waste and debris in local waterways.

The vote was greeted by supporters as a major step for the environment, while critics say it's an example of regulatory overreach that will limit consumer choices and cost jobs.

Los Angeles will become the largest city in the United States to impose a plastic-bag ban, with some 7,500 affected stores and nearly 4 million residents. The city council vote, which took place Wednesday, sets in motion a months-long process including an environmental review, enactment of an ordinance, and a phase-in period that affects larger stores first, according to news reports.

As a further nudge for consumers to deploy reusable shopping bags, the council also voted to require a 10-cent fee for each paper bag.

Even though further steps are needed before the ban goes into effect, the 13-to-1 vote by the city council gives new momentum to efforts to ban bags in other US communities, as well as toward possible enactment of a statewide ban in California. (Counties throughout Hawaii have enacted bans, making it the first state with zero tolerance for single-use bags.)

Critics of the move say it amounts to micromanaging the behavior of consumers and businesses, for questionable gains.

"Is there any wonder California is ranked the worst state for businesses?" Daniel Halper wrote in an online commentary for the conservative Weekly Standard before the city council's vote.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a group representing makers and recyclers of plastic bags, said in a statement Wednesday that the policy will threaten jobs in an industry that employs some 2,000 people statewide. Mark Daniels, who chairs the group, said the ban will push residents toward "less environmentally friendly reusable bags which are produced overseas and cannot be recycled."

"Singling out and banning one product does not reduce litter," Mr. Daniels asserted. "The city chose to take a simplistic approach that takes away consumer choice."

Environmentalists, however, say cracking down on plastic bags will be a clear win for ecosystems in southern California.

Los Angeles currently uses some 2.3 billion single-use plastic bags each year, plus 400 million paper bags, says the group Heal the Bay in Santa Monica, Calif. Only about 5 percent of the plastic bags are currently recycled, the group says, arguing that "we can't recycle our way out of this problem."

Supporters of the ban argue that the current policy imposes a hidden burden, as bags come to consumers cheap but then clog waterways, get stuck in trees, and blow around city streets. Disposal and recycling cost an estimated 17 cents per bag, says Heal the Bay.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Los Angeles to become largest US city banning plastic bags
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today