The movement to ban plastic bags in California scored a major victory when the Long Beach City Council voted 5-0 last night to support a disposable bag ban based on the Los Angeles County bag ordinance. Heal the Bay boardmember Suja Lowenthal spearheaded the City Council effort to ban single use plastic bags, but Dee Andrews’ support for the ordinance was key. (Five votes were needed as there were four absences).
Large retailers are required to stop giving out single use plastic bags by August, with smaller retailer requirements kicking in for January. Like the county’s ordinance, retailers are allowed to sell “green” paper bags for a dime as an alternative. But the message from Long Beach remains strong: Use reusable bags instead of single use bags.
Long Beach has a lot to gain from the bag ban because the city sits at the bottom of the heavily urbanized, over 1500-square mile L.A. and San Gabriel River watersheds. As a result, Long Beach beaches bear the brunt of our society’s irresponsible waste disposal behavior.
The win was hard fought. Kirsten James and Sarah Sikich led Heal the Bay’s advocacy efforts. Plastic pollution prevention icon Charlie Moore, Surfrider Foundation, Earth Resource Foundation, the UFCW, local residents and others came out in massive support for ordinance.
Meanwhile, the opposition pulled out all the stops, with plastic bag mouthpiece Stephen Joseph, the American Chemistry Council, and bag manufacturers Crowne Poly and the litigious South Carolina-based Hilex putting pressure on Long Beach to reject the ban. But once again, heavy-handed threats did not influence the final vote of a strong city council.
Next up has to be Los Angeles. Between last year’s promise by Mayor Villaraigosa to ban plastic bags to the city council resolution to move forward on a ban three years ago, the time is long overdue for Los Angeles to expedite passage of a bag ban ordinance.
The local, state and national message that would be sent by the diverse city of over 4 million people with a plastic bag ban ordinance will lead to a fundamental change in the irresponsible use of single use plastic packaging.