On Tuesday, July 22nd, the L.A. City Council will vote on a series of recommendations to reduce urban blight and marine debris. If the measure passes, we’ll be seeing a lot fewer plastic bag trees lining the L.A. River and our beaches may even look like beaches instead of trash dumps after a rainstorm.
Thanks to the leadership of Councilman Ed Reyes and Council President Eric Garcetti, the motion calls for a ban on all expanded polystyrene (EPS or Styrofoam) food service products from City-owned facilities to be phased in over the next two years. That means LAX will be foam free by 2010. Also, the motion calls for a ban on single use plastic bags at all supermarkets and retail establishments by January 1, 2012 IF a fee for plastic bags has not been established by that date. In addition, the motion calls for the city to support Assembly Bill 2058 (Levine, Davis and Brownley) which calls for a 25 cent bag fee by July 1, 2011. The bill would send the bulk of the funds to cities and counties for trash cleanup education programs and street sweeping. Currently, the county and nearly every municipality in the region are grossly underfunded for basic programs like street sweeping, stormwater education, and catch basin cleaning.
The City has taken a leadership role in keeping trash out of rivers, lakes, beaches and bays through the installation of tens of thousands of catch basin screens and inserts. However, their efforts have proven that screens alone are not enough. A lot more needs to be done, and the bag fee and foam ban recommendations are critical.
People in L.A. County use 6 billion bags a year. Polystyrene is right up there with cigarette butts as the top trash item found at Heal the Bay’s over 300 annual beach and river cleanups. Neither of these single use plastics degrades in the aquatic environment in less than a few centuries. We can’t recycle our way to a marine debris solution. We need to break our addiction to single use packaging, and fees and bans are the proven most effective way to get there.
Tell your L.A. City Councilmember to vote for the bans. Better yet, I hope you can make it to the City Council meeting at 10:00 am on Tuesday. Help L.A. join Santa Monica, Malibu, West Hollywood and Manhattan Beach in stopping the scourge from EPS and plastic bags. As usual, it will be held at the Los Angeles City Hall John Ferraro Council Chambers, Room 340, on 200 North Spring St. The bans are item #16 on the meeting agenda.