Plastic losing market value

GLENDALE — The impetus for banning plastic bags in Glendale is gaining traction as the City Council on Tuesday is set to consider joining a Los Angeles County-wide initiative that would reduce or ban the bags.

Officials estimate that plastic bags, which can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, make up as much as 25% of the litter stream in county landfills. They have also caused headaches in Glendale, where officials with Scholl Canyon Landfill say plastic bags are the primary source of littler in storm drains and streets.

Public Works Director Steve Zurn has said crews at Scholl Canyon Landfill work 24 hours a day collecting the plastic bags as they blow off trash trucks to prevent them from leaving the site.

If the council votes to join the county’s “Single-Use Bag Reduction and Recycling Program,” adopted by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year, then a number of reduction measures could be enacted, depending on compliance, officials said.

In addition to promoting recycling efforts and reusable bags, the measure could ban plastic bags at large supermarkets and retail stores one year after the ordinance is adopted or seek a significant reduction in the use of plastic bags by 2010 or 2013, according to a city staff report.

“We should do our part,” Councilman Ara Najarian said. “There are secondary benefits to keeping waterways clean, but the primary benefit is in keeping our own streets clean. On just about every block, you can see one or two of these floating in the wind or tucked against the wall. It’s partly our problem as citizens and residents who don’t dispose of them properly.”

If adopted, Glendale would follow other plastic-bag-reducing laws enacted by a number of cities throughout California. San Francisco was first to pass a measure aimed at reducing the effect of plastic bags when they passed a motion in March 2007 that requires supermarkets and pharmacies to use “compostable plastic, recyclable paper and/or reusable checkout bags,” according to its law.

Los Angeles followed suit when its city council voted in July to ban single-use plastic bags in supermarkets and stores by 2010.

The Glendale City Council is considering adopting a measure that is open to the 88 cities and 140 unincorporated communities in L.A. County. Some cities — such as Malibu and Santa Monica — have already adopted it in some form. But if the measure is to have its full intended effect, other cities would likely have to join, Najarian said.

Najarian said the council might consider working with neighboring cities, such as Burbank, to help reduce littered bags on either side of the border and clean up shared waterways.

“Surrounding communities have an effect on us,” he said. “The hope is that not just a few isolated cities get on board, but we do create a groundswell. I don’t see why they wouldn’t support it and agree with the position we have. It’s a very minor impingement among our lifestyle to use a recyclable bag to do our shopping and clean our city and the entire Southern California region.”

 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at

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