Opinion: Finally, L.A. blows away the ghastly plastic bag

LA bags the plastic
Surrounded at City hall by members of groups who will be making the city’s new logo recyclable trash bags, city council member Paul Koretz holds the new bag and Heal the Bay’s “Bag Monster” James Alamillo heralds the end of the environmentally costly plastic item.
(Betsy Annas/City of Los Angeles)

Not only can you fight City Hall, sometimes City Hall can fight itself and win — defeating civic inertia and civic politics.

So, good job, Los Angeles! As of Tuesday, the city’s January ban on single-use plastic bags for many big retailers extends to more than 7,000 small grocers, markets, convenience stores and drugstores.

This is a good thing for very good reasons. They include:

  • Consideration for the planet we must inhabit until Elon Musk can get us to the Mars Club Med. Tens of thousands of sea mammals and turtles die every year because they eat the plastic junk that we dump.
  • Aesthetic. It’s gross to see these bags clinging to fences like dead jellyfish and gathered into big dirty tumbleweeds lolloping across a windy landscape.
  • Self-interest. The 12 or 14 petroleum-product plastic bags you may use unthinkingly every week could fuel a mile of driving, according to environmentalists. That’s 52 miles a year, at least. Considering that Californians use billions of these bags a year, a lot of freeway miles are going into a landfill.

If you’re still not persuaded, too bad, because now it’s the law.


To help ease everyone into compliance, the city has been handing out donated reusable shopping bags for several years.

Now it’ll have its own signature bag. The ordinance’s author, council member Paul Koretz, announced on the City Hall steps Monday that thousands of these will be given away at markets in L.A.’s poorer neighborhoods, where a dime to buy a paper bag — which is what it now costs — can be a big deal.

The black and green nylon bag is paid for by grants and produced by Green Vets LA and Homeboy Industries. The logo — a stylized City Hall against mountains and palms — was designed by Melodie Pisciotti, who won over about 200 other entries in an online competition, which was suggested by yours truly and carried out by the mayor’s office.

There were a lot of suits on the City Hall steps, but the photo op of the morning was the Bag Monster, James Alamillo of Heal the Bay, who for years has been dressing in a suit of flimsy, tattered plastic bags. I think I saw the telltale black and white of an ancient I. Magnin’s bag in there, a reminder of how long it can take a bag to begin to degrade: If William the Conqueror, who never could conquer his big belly, had brought a Safeway plastic bag full of groceries with him when he took over England in 1066, it would still be decomposing.


Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes

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