Piece of Mind: Council dodges politics of plastic bags

It had been some time since we'd visited the Target store near Vroman's in Pasadena, so after a casual dinner the other night here at Magpie's, my husband and I ventured across the Arroyo in hunt of some bargains. Some might not call that a date night, but coming home carrying treasures like my new Mossimo ballet flats (only $12!) is the best kind of aphrodisiac known to this woman.

Our arms were quite literally filled because we forgot to take any cloth grocery bags into the store with us, and because it is located in Pasadena, this particular Target does not package purchased items in plastic bags anymore. You probably already knew that, but Gil and I don't get out as often as we'd like to and had somehow forgotten that last year, the forward-thinking city council in the municipality next door to ours had unanimously passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags.

Per the ordinance, merchants can offer up paper bags for 10 cents each. The clerk at the Target we visited advised my date of this option. Gil declined the opportunity to add an extra 50-60 cents to our tab; I agreed, but for ecological, not economical reasons.

So, we piled our purchases up in our arms. It was helpful that there were a few shoe boxes in the haul so that we could stuff some of our smaller items inside those lidded containers. On top of the boxes we stacked everything else and teetered our way to the car. I remember thinking that it was a good thing we didn't buy anything the size and shape of a basketball, or it might have been more challenging to make it to the parking lot without dropping stuff along the way.

I was glad for the reminder to make sure we have reusable cloth bags on us all the time. We knew we were going into a store that we were very likely to walk out of with merchandise, and we should have thought to pull those bags out of the trunk of our car before we entered Target. It's so easy to do and adds only a couple of extra seconds to the time one's already spending out and about, running errands.

There are reasons that cities ban single-use plastic bags. The city of Pasadena, on its website, notes that the reasons its council decided to move forward with the ban is because the bags are produced from non-renewable sources, are intended to be thrown away after only one use, are often among items littered by careless users, are known to be hazardous to wildlife, and have been identified as polluting waterways. Also, according to that site and other sources, less than 5% of the 19 billion plastic bags used every year in this state are recycled. That leaves a whole lot of them headed for no good use — and perhaps a great deal of harm — after people have pulled their new purchases out of them.

The city of Glendale, by the way, followed the lead of Pasadena. Its City Council also unanimously banned single-use plastic bags. And the mother of all area cities, Los Angeles, beat them both to the punch, banning bags last May.

I'm trying to figure out why our mayor, after listening to recent pleas by area residents to consider such a ban here, was unable to convince a majority of the La Cañada Flintridge City Council to allow the topic to even make it to an upcoming agenda. One member of the council suggested there was no need to consider it now because the state is likely to pass its own law that would supersede anything the city does. One measure currently on the table, by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2015, or about 20 months from now. Why wait?

Come on, folks! Putting it on an agenda for a discussion must surely be worth the time. Are you uncomfortable with the idea of making your stance known, either for or against a plastic bag ban? Is it a matter of worrying you'll be perceived as someone who stomps on your neighbors' liberties if you were to say no to plastic bags? Or, if you are not in favor of a ban, are you concerned you'll turn off the voters who have environmental concerns? I'm very aware that this is a politically-loaded subject, with probably as many people against a ban as are in favor of one, but your unwillingness to even investigate and discuss the issue publicly does not reflect well on the council as a whole.

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. She can be reached at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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