City Council may pursue plastic bag ban

Glendale could soon followin the footsteps of Los Angeles County and several cities throughout the state that have banned plastic bags at major retail stores.

The City Council on Tuesday will determine whether to pursue a law similar to the one that recently went into effect for unincorporated areas of L.A. County. That law, which will affect more than 2,000 stores by January 2012, bans plastic bags and requires retailers to levy a 10-cent surcharge per paper bag.

Other cities, such as Pasadena, have already started drafting their own bans to be in lockstep with the county. Burbank officials have indicated that they may follow their lead.

“The negative impact to the environment as a result of these bags motivates us to ban plastic bags,” said Public Works Director Steve Zurn, adding that officials envision a rule that prevents all retailers, from grocery to drug stores, from using plastic bags.

Glendale officials began pushing for a ban three years ago, but as legal challenges against other cities started to pop up, City Hall switched into wait-and-see mode.

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, an advocacy group, sued Manhattan Beach after it banned plastic bags because the city did not first commission an Environmental Impact Report on the potential impacts of the new law. The plastics group won at the Los Angeles County Superior Court level, but the state Supreme Court reversed the ruling.

While several cities expected the Manhattan Beach decision to set a precedent, it’s limited to similar-sized cities — or less than 1/5 the size of Glendale, according to a city report. If the City Council approves a ban, Glendale would piggyback onto the county’s Environmental Impact Report.

Glendale officials expect to spend $15,000 for an addendum.

Coalition for a Green Glendale, an environmental group, said it’s in favor of a plastic bag ban, which also has support from the California Grocers Assn. and local retailers.


FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version that called the environmental group Green Glendale.


Retailers that support the ban say they would prefer wide-sweeping rules to avoid a patchwork of laws, but a similar ban died in the state Senate last year.

California Grocer’s Assn. spokesman Dave Heylen said retailers that are subject to the plastic ban have reported smooth transitions, but that their customers have had a harder go.

“There’s definitely a learning curve,” Heylen said. “It’s hard to change consumers over night.”

The inconvenience can impact sales, some say.

Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said some stores in unincorporated parts of L.A. County are losing business as customers go elsewhere to avoid the paper bag fee and the expense of having to buy a reusable bag.

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition has argued that plastic bags aren’t as damaging as opponents claim, and point out that paper bags are also harmful. Progressive Bag Affiliates, which is connected to the American Chemistry Council, holds a similar view.

“PBA believes it’s far simpler to educate consumers about the ability to recycle all these valuable materials rather than restrict access to useful products,” said spokeswoman Allyson Wilson.

But Zurn said recycling plastic bags is more difficult than paper, adding that the 10-cent charge gives retailers a reprieve for switching to the more expensive product.

Plastic bags also clog storm drains and harm wildlife, proponents of the ban contend.

“Our hope is to try and get as many people as possible to use reusable bags,” Zurn said.

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