In one of his last major acts before leaving office, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Wednesday signed into law an ordinance that makes Los Angeles the most populous city in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags.
The ban will take effect Jan. 1 for large stores and six months later for smaller stores. Customers will be required to provide their own re-usable bags when they visit stores, or pay 10 cents each for paper bags.
The law is similar to one adopted by Los Angeles County. Other cities in California, including San Francisco and Santa Monica, have plastic bag bans.
A statewide ban proposed by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, a former councilman, was defeated in May.
Villaraigosa called Wednesday on California lawmakers to follow suit in passing a statewide ban.
“The problem of plastic bags isn’t just an L.A. problem. It’s a California problem,” he said. “It’s time the state passed a ban.”
Councilman Paul Koretz, who wrote the local law, said the ban signifies a shift from an “unthinking, single-use culture” to a “more mindful re-usable culture.”
“This is how we can live more gently on our beautiful little planet,” he said.
The council voted 9-1 Tuesday in support of the ban, with Councilman Bernard Parks casting the lone dissenting vote.
Activists said a plastic bag ban will lead to cleaner beaches, storm drains, rivers and other public spaces that tend to become the final resting places for the non-biodegradable bags. Representatives of plastics companies countered that it would cost jobs, while others contended reusable bags are prone to germs and pose a health risk.
To help ease the transition, the city plans to hand out about 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas, and women who get food benefits through the Women, Infants and Children program will be exempted from the ban.
The local ban will take effect Jan. 1 for stores that gross more than $2 million a year or are housed in more than 10,000 square feet. Starting July 1, 2014, the ban will include liquor stores, and independent markets that carry limited groceries but have staples such as milk and bread.
Proceeds from the 10-cent charge for recyclable paper bags will be kept by stores and used only to recoup the costs of the bags and comply with the city ban. It also will pay for materials to promote reusable bags.
Stores will be required to file quarterly reports on the number of paper bags given out, how much money the store receives for those bags and efforts to promote reusable bags.