As plastic-bag ban looms, L.A. plans to give out totes

With a plastic-bag ban set to go into effect in Los Angeles on the first of the new year, city officials are launching a campaign to get residents in the habit of using reusable totes.

The city has teamed up with environmental groups and nonprofit organizations that work with veterans and former gang members to produce a line of bags made from recycled or repurposed materials.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, who led the push for the ban and who is now raising money to manufacture the totes, said the bags will be given away for free.

"Angelenos will be carrying these around for decades," he said Monday at a news conference announcing the initiative. 

A council vote this past summer made Los Angeles the biggest city in the nation to ban plastic bags in all stores in an effort to reduce pollution. At the time, lawmakers said they hoped to give away 1-million reusable bags to residents.

Making the bags will cost about $5 each, according to Jim Cragg, who runs a nonprofit that puts veterans to work. His group, Green Vets L.A., will construct the bags out of donated material. Homeboy Industries, an organization that provides jobs and other services to ex-gang members, will screen-print designs on the totes.

The bag-making coalition has received $25,000 from Metabolic Studio, a think tank and art studio connected to the Annenberg Foundation. Koretz said the group is looking for more donations.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, larger stores will be barred from distributing plastic grocery bags. Smaller stores will have to come into compliance on July 1, 2014. Stores will be able to sell customers paper bags for 10 cents, but the architects of the law say they hope residents will use the reusable totes instead.

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