West Hollywood OKs Ban on Plastic Bags

West Hollywood has become the latest in a string of California cities — including Santa Monica, Long Beach and Pasadena — to ban single-use plastic bags at store checkout lines.

The City Council adopted an ordinance Monday night prohibiting hundreds of pharmacies and grocery and retail stores — including clothing stores and newsstands — in the 1.9-square-mile city from distributing the bags. The ordinance was approved as part of the council’s consent calendar, along with routine items.

The ban is in line with one already in effect in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, city officials said.

“Local governments have been charged, I think rightfully so, to reduce the amount of waste we put in the waste system,” said West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang. Plastic bags “are costing us money and filling up landfills,” he said.

The ban is intended to reduce landfill waste and to encourage residents to shop with reusable bags or paper bags made with recycled materials.

Under the ordinance, stores can provide paper bags made with at least 40% post-consumer recycled content, but must charge 10 cents for each one as an incentive to encourage reusables. Customers who qualify for subsidized groceries will not be required to pay the bag fee.

Larger retailers — those with buildings of 10,000 square feet or more — will be required to stop using plastic bags within six months. Smaller stores have a year to comply. Farmers markets, restaurants and other food service providers are excluded from the ban.

West Hollywood’s plastic bag ordinance met with little resistance, officials said. The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce supported the ban and has been helping businesses prepare for the transition, said Genevieve Morrill, president of the organization.

The California Grocers Assn. is comfortable with the action, said Sarah Paulson Sheehy, a spokeswoman for the organization. “What we particularly like about the City of West Hollywood’s ordinance is that it is for all retailers” and is not just targeted at supermarkets, Sheehy said. “If a plastic bag is detrimental at a grocery store, it’s harmful at a hardware store.”

San Francisco approved California’s first ban on plastic bags in 2007 and since then many municipalities have followed suit. Los Angeles approved a ban in May, becoming the largest city in the nation to do so. A ban in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County has been in effect for just over a year.

Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times (August 21, 2012)