La Crescenta says goodbye to plastic

LA CRESCENTA — La Crescenta shoppers will soon have to stick to paper or reusable grocery bags after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday enacted a sweeping ban on the use of single-use plastic bags.

The board voted 3 to 1 Tuesday to approve the ban for unincorporated areas and encouraged the 88 cities across the county to follow suit. Currently, only Malibu has a similar ban in place.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the La Crescenta area, voted against the ban, which he said would cause additional financial burdens on small retailers and consumers. Supervisor Don Knabe was absent.

On Tuesday, Glendale City Councilman Frank Quintero said he was ready reconsider a ban after having an initial discussion in 2008.

"I'm certainly willing to put it on the agenda and begin to discuss how we can put together a program," he said. "It's a serious issue."

Under the county ordinance, all supermarkets and other grocery and convenience stores will no longer be allowed to provide plastic single-use bags.

Those that provide paper grocery bags will be required to charge customers 10 cents per bag in an effort to encourage the use of reusable bags.

Government figures show that currently only 5% of plastic bags are recycled.

"These plastic bags pollute every school yard, every residential neighborhood, streets, sidewalks," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "They are a blight on the urban communities we live in."

Environmental groups heralded the ban, which they said would help keep the bags out of landfills and the ocean. Representatives of local plastic manufacturers, meanwhile, argued the law could unfairly hurt their business.

Antonovich said he would not support the ban during the current economic climate.

"At a time of economic uncertainty with the large number of business already leaving our state, this would not be the appropriate time in our efforts to clean up the environment to impose this additional regulation on the businesses, but more importantly, this additional fee on the consumer," he said.

Gus Malouf, owner of independent grocery store Cordon's Ranch Market in Montrose, would not be affected by the county ban, but said he wouldn't mind a similar law in Glendale.

"When you pay for a bag, you don't throw it away. You take it home and you use it again," he said. "I think it's a fantastic idea. I hope it applies to us."

The California Grocers Assn., which represents hundreds of chain and independent supermarkets and convenience stores across the state, also supported the ban.

The county's action comes on the heels of an unsuccessful attempt by the state legislature to pass a similar law.

"This would be much better if it were done statewide, to have uniformity across the board," said Supervisor Gloria Molina. "The wave is beginning here and hopefully it will move all the way to Sacramento."

Large chains will have until July 1, 2011 to comply the law, while smaller retailers will have until January 1, 2012.

Some Glendale grocery stores, such as Trader Joe's, already offer only paper grocery bags.

Walking out of the Trader Joe's on Glendale Avenue, Mindy Park said she has in recent years moved to using reusable bags for all her shopping trips.

As she carried two reusable cloth bags full of groceries, Park said she was encouraged to hear of the county's ban.

"I think it's an excellent idea," she said. "Sometimes you need a plastic bag, but you can always buy one."

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