L.A. council moves ahead on ban of paper and plastic bags


A Los Angeles City Council committee moved forward Wednesday with a plan to end the use of paper and plastic bags at supermarket checkout lines, saying such a move would spur consumers to switch to more environmentally friendly reusable ones.

The council’s Energy and Environment Committee forwarded its strategy for banning bags at 7,500 stores to the full council, comparing the change to laws requiring seat belts or banning smoking in restaurants.

The vote occurred despite objections from workers at a plastic bag manufacturer who said their company would be devastated if bans are passed throughout the country.

“I will be losing my job, losing my insurance. Please take that into consideration,” said Norma Fierro, an employee of plastic bag manufacturer Crown Poly, whose managers had warned that a city ban could prompt the layoff of between 20 and 130 employees.

Councilman Paul Koretz said he expected that Crown Poly would need to eliminate only a small number of positions. And he compared the company to makers of horse-drawn carriages at the start of the 20th century.

“I’m the last one to allow for layoffs in L.A. city, and I fight them hard,” he said. “But I’ve never stood and said that if a job doesn’t make sense anymore, that we’ve got to keep that job.”

Under the proposal, the council would still need to draft an ordinance and initiate an environmental review of the bag phaseout. Once the ordinance is in effect, city officials would provide six months’ warning to stores — including supermarkets and other retailers that sell food — that plastic bags would no longer be permitted, city officials said.

Once the plastic bag ban is in place, supermarkets would be required to charge 10 cents for each paper bag. Six months later, paper bags would be prohibited as well, said Koretz, who wrote the proposal.

The bag ban has been supported by an array of environmental groups, who say the vast majority of plastic bags are not recycled and are going into the ocean and other locations instead. Councilman Dennis Zine said a bag ban would cause the public to rely on reusable bags.

“People will adjust,” he said. “They’ll adapt ... and learn to take it with them.”

Andrea Alarcon, president of the Board of Public Works, had urged the panel to embrace a complete ban, saying paper bags lead to deforestation. Her father, Councilman Richard Alarcon, voted with his colleagues to advance the proposal.

He called the decision difficult, noting that Crown Poly offers a good benefits package to its workers.

“I wish that we could do something to assist them,” he said. “One of the problems ... is that none of these companies are based in Los Angeles directly.”