L.A. City Council Vote, Not in the Bag … Yet

A historic vote to bag single-use bags in L.A. is set for Friday at City Hall.

The Los Angeles City Council heard testimony from over 60 people today on the long-awaited single-use plastic bag ban.  The environmental community was well represented and attired in natty green.  Other supporters included reusable bag manufacturers, the California Grocers Assn., the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, and 17 neighborhood councils!  Clearly, a life without single-use plastic bags is a popular movement that has grown well beyond L.A. County, Long Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica, Calabasas and other SoCal cities.

Opposition was provided by bag man Stephen “This bag is more than a toy” Joseph and Crown Poly bag manufacturing staff.  Joseph tried to tie the city council vote to California’s ranking by industry titans as the place they’d least likely want to do business.  I’m not sure where the ranking came from, but Joseph did say that Texas was No. 1.  Enough said.

Thanks to a prior commitment to the environmental community from Council President Eric Garcetti, the City Council heard the testimony. However, members were uncomfortable taking action without the bag ban first going through the Energy and Environment Committee.

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Back-to-Back Jacks

"Modern Family" and MLB hit it out of the park Wednesday night.

Last night, I enjoyed an amazing half hour of TV after our Rosh Hashanah dinner. Yes, I’ll have something else to atone for a week from Saturday, but it was worth it.

Watching Red Sox Nation and the tomahawk-chopping, unPC  Braves complete some of the most epic tank jobs in baseball history within minutes of each other was almost more joy than I could stand. The fact that the longshot Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to win in extras (including a two-out bomb in the ninth to tie the Yanks) made the night’s drama even more incredible.

But the greatest serendipity of the night came after my wife and daughter kicked me off ESPN to feed their addiction to “Modern Family.” As usual, the writers embedded parallel and goofy plotlines in the 22-minute episode. The rewarding twist came when the starving couple of Cam and Mitchell went to a fundraiser at the Malibu beach house of Mitchell’s boss.

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Andy vs. The Plastic Goliath

Big Plastic is trying to silence Andy Keller, aka The Bag Monster, via an intimidating lawsuit.

In a bullying move that demonstrates just how devoid of morals and ethics most plastic bag manufacturers may be, Hilex Poly Co., Superbag Operating and Advance Polybag have sued ChicoBag on the grounds that the reusable bag manufacturer has “irreparably harmed” their businesses.

If you don’t know, ChicoBag is a small Northern California-based business that makes cool reusable bags that fold up into tiny, highly portable pouches. You probably have seen them at the checkout stand at select grocery stores and other retailers. The head of ChicoBag is a young entrepreneur named Andy Keller who is absolutely passionate about the environment’s need for us to break our addiction to single-use plastic packaging.

As a result, Andy created ChicoBag and the “bag monster,” a costume made of 500 plastic bags (about the average number of bags used annually per person in the U.S).  The bag monster has been a huge hit in schools, rallies, council chambers, and press events in getting the point across about plastic pollution.

The plastic bag manufacturing industry wasn’t amused by Andy’s bag monster or his use of statements and facts on the size of our bag addiction and the perils of plastic bags in the marine environment.  As a result, these three enormous companies sued Andy in South Carolina.

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At Last, a Bag Ban in Santa Monica

Samohi's Team Marine led fight to ban bags.

The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday night that bans single use plastic and paper bags, but allows retailers to sell “green” paper bags for at least a dime.  Due to the passage of Proposition 26 with its chilling impact on government’s ability to create and raise fees, Santa Monica abandoned  its original ordinance, which would have put the paper-bag fee at a quarter with some of the revenue coming back to the city. Instead, leaders opted to model their bill after  L.A. County’s recently approved ban.

Fifty people came out to support the bag ban ordinance, about 25 students with Santa Monica High School Team Marine teacher Ben Kay and 25 attendees from environmental groups and the general public.  As you might have expected, the students stole the show.  Dressed in costumes ranging from bag man to straw student to lid lady to bottle boy, the students came out during finals week to advocate for the bag ban.  In a proud moment for me, my son Zack, an ocean swimmer and three year co-president of the Heal the Bay Surfrider Club, testified in support of the ordinance.  Zack reminded council members that he started testifying to them as a freshman.  Now he’s a graduating senior.

Santa Monica is the undisputed greenest city in California (OK, Berkeley will dispute that). How did it take its leaders nearly four years to ban single use bags? If you guessed ongoing litigation threats from the Coalition to Save the Plastic Bag, then you’ve been paying attention.

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L.A. County Blazes a Plastic Trail

The county's ban on plastic bags will help take tons of harmful trash out of local waterways like the L.A. River

In an interesting twist, Los Angeles County is the new statewide leader on breaking Californians’ 19-billion-a-year addiction to single-use shopping bags.  The Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 today to ban plastic and paper bags in unincorporated areas of the county and allow grocery stores, drug stores and convenience stores to charge a dime for green paper bags.  The ordinance is the farthest-reaching bag ban ordinance in California and should result in a 600 million-bag-a-year reduction in the county.

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Masters of the Obvious

Today, in a study bought and paid for by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), earth-shattering findings were released to the public. Unwashed reusable bags can be contaminated with a variety of bacterial pathogens, including Salmonella. Bag bacteria counts are especially high when you allow meat and chicken to incubate in the trunk of a car where temperatures can get nice and toasty.  I wonder how much the ACC paid for this ground-breaking research to point out the obvious.

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Steinberg Steals the Show

State Sen. Pro Tem Steinberg expressed his support of AB 1998 at Heal the Bay gala Thursday night.

Heal the Bay celebrated its 25th anniversary Thursday night with a fundraiser on the beach in Santa Monica.  Sandwiched between freaky winter weather, the gala unfolded on a cloudless, balmy evening that afforded us an extraordinary sunset on the Bay.

More than 900 people came out to celebrate Heal the Bay’s long history of coastal  protection and to recognize the environmental achievements of honorees Nicolas Cage, Jack Baylis, Luann Laval Williams and the Walt Disney Co. Incredible board members Barry and Jennifer Gribbon really outdid themselves this year, putting on such a fun and inspiring event that captured the spirit of the organization.

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