Local green groups hosted a community forum Wednesday to discuss the environmental and economic benefits of banning plastic bags in Burbank, with critics arguing that a ban would strip consumers of the convenience and freedom to shop with the bags, which they often reuse or recycle.
The Burbank City Council is slated to decide next month whether to pursue a plastic bag ban, which would likely impact roughly 130 stores, 20 of which are retailers with buildings larger than 10,000 square feet, said Ferris Kawar, recycling specialist at the Burbank Recycle Center.
Ban supporter Rody Stephenson said that Burbank and La Cañada, where he lives, are the last in the area to implement a ban.
“We’ve got to keep this stuff out of the river, out of the landfills, off of our streets and out of the ocean,” Stephenson said. “And it’ll save money.”
Others weren’t convinced.
Resident Elena Cook said environmental groups should campaign to curb plastic bag use instead of banning them all together.
“What are you going to take away next?” Cook asked.
However, event hosts said they’ve been trying to reduce plastic bag use for years, but still, on average, consumers use 500 plastic bags per year, less than 5% of which get recycled.
If the Council gives city staff the green light to draft an ordinance, it will likely be similar to a ban implemented in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County’s about two years ago, Kawar said.
The idea would be to ban plastic bags at the checkout counter, while still allowing grocery stores to carry bags for produce and meat. Stores will have the option to sell reusable bags as long as they meet a certain standard, and will likely charge a fee for paper bags, Kawar said.
This didn’t sit well with Cook, who stood firmly against a ban.
“They’re taking away a convenience from the people,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think it’s fair to charge consumers for paper bags after a plastic bag ban is in place.
“We’re going to have to figure out another way to take our groceries home,” she said.
But resident Armond Aghakhanian said that as a diver, he often sees plastic bags turn into a gooey substance that remains in the ocean, since they don’t biodegrade.
“The last thing I want is my children to swim in water that has that plastic substance,” he said. “You have to put a ban on this.”