Los Angeles City Council Bans Plastic Grocery Bags

Published July 2, 2012

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13 to 1 to ban plastic grocery bags, making the City of Angels the largest in the nation to enact such a ban. In wake of the May 23 vote, consumers will soon have to use reusable bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each. The ban will be phased in during the next 16 months.

Los Angeles thus joins San Jose, San Francisco, and Long Beach in banning plastic bags. Supporters say the ban will reduce the amount of trash in landfills and in the region’s waterways and the ocean. Analysts such as H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, counter the ban will harm the economy, consumer choice, human health, and the environment.

Shipping Jobs Overseas

“The ban doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. By multiple standards of measurement, plastic bags are better for the environment, much more hygienic, and better economically than reusable bags,” Burnett said.

“With these bans, environmental activists are succeeding in shipping overseas a domestic industry that employs 10,000 Americans and that the United States dominates. The primary beneficiary will be China, where over 90 percent of reusable bags are currently made,” Burnett added.

Human Health Threat

Seton Motley, president of Less Government, a public policy group that advocates smaller, less centralized government, points out studies have shown reusable bags become incubators for food-borne diseases. 

“If we eliminate all the plastic bags, we’re going to have to use reusable bags which can become festering carriers of disease,” Motley said.

Portland’s Abject Lesson

John Charles, president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Oregon, says bag bans are a solution in search of a problem. 

“Los Angeles could learn something from Portland. We’ve had a 20-year-old ordinance in Portland that bans polystyrene foam and found that the alternatives actually present more negative environmental impacts.

“At the same time, the ordinance drives up the costs to businesses and consumers. All it’s done in Portland is anger consumers and make them shop outside the city limits. It’s an example of classic Portland overreach. They should repeal this ban and leave us alone,” said Charles.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.