New L.A. ordinance outlaws single-use plastic bags at small grocers

Sacramento Montoya, 40, carries new reusable bags for customers who don't bring their own to the specialty shop La Princesita in East Los Angeles. A new city ordinance taking effect Tuesday outlaws platic bags at mom-and-pop stores.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A new Los Angeles city ordinance taking effect Tuesday will outlaw single-use plastic bags at mom-and-pop convenience stores.

The ban comes two years after city officials voted to phase out the use of plastic bags, a move clean-water advocates said would reduce the amount of trash in landfills, the region’s waterways and the ocean.

In January, big-chain grocers and supermarkets started charging shoppers 10 cents for paper bags at the checkout. But the law has not totally eliminated plastic bags. Some stores sell thicker, reusable plastic bags for 15 cents or more.


Now, small grocers are being required to transition from cheap plastic to more expensive paper. Some business owners worry that the added cost will cut into their already-thin profit margins.

Last month, store owners received a notice informing them of the new ban. In anticipation of the law, Zaman Amini replaced the lightweight black plastic bags at the family-owned Cloverdale Market in the Miracle Mile area with paper bags.

When shoppers complain of the 10-cent fee, Amini said he just eats the cost and gives them the bag for free.

“People don’t like the charges, so sometimes I don’t charge them,” Amini said. “I don’t want to lose customers.”

City officials said including smaller grocery stores in the ban is an important step in protecting natural resources, particularly the ocean and beaches.

“We are more conscious about how these bags hurt the environment,” City Councilman Paul Krekorian said in a statement. “By expanding the ban to all grocery stores and markets, Los Angeles is truly showing our commitment to a more responsible and sustainable future.”


Los Angeles made history in 2012 when it became the largest city to ban plastic bags. Other California cities had already passed similar measures, including San Jose, San Francisco and Long Beach. Chicago has since followed suit, and a bill was introduced in New York City in March to ban plastic bags.

On Saturday, Daniel Delacruz loaded his car with several bags of marinaded meat after a shopping trip to La Princesita in East Los Angeles. Each bag was tripled-bagged. The Downey resident said he usually brings in reusable cloth bags.

The specialty shop has already started enforcing a 15-cent charge for plastic bags. Delacruz, 40, was willing to pay the 15 cents to avoid contamination, but he said the fee feels like a tax.

“I don’t think consumers should be penalized,” he said.

Twitter: @LATangel