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LA Bans The Bag

In a continuing national and global trend, Los Angeles becomes the largest U.S. city to ban single-use plastic bags.

Congratulations to the City of Angels, which became the largest American city to ban single-use plastic shopping bags.  Given recent reports of toxic plastics found in our oceans and in the stomachs of seafood we consume, LA’s decision is as much about personal health as it is about our environment. 

Some of the biggest trends start on America’s West Coast and are the harbingers of things to come “Out East.”  And, it is my hope, that the Southampton Town Board will soon come to terms with the wisdom of LA’s decision and last week’s announcement from Honolulu that the State of Hawaii has banned single-use plastic shopping bags “State-wide”.

LA started by doing their own homework.  Their study determined that 43 percent of Los Angeles’ trash comes from plastic and that 19 percent of their plastic trash is made up of single-use plastic bags.  I have not seen any data to suggest why LA’s numbers would not be representative of municipalities across America, such as Southampton for instance, give or take some. More importantly, LA’s study countered unsupported claims of opponents to the law that plastic shopping bags were a small source of concern, not deserving of an outright ban. 

But LA’s population of over 4 million people uses an enormous amount of bags every day, as their study shows. It also demonstrates that very few bags are recycled. 

To put LA’s numbers into an appreciable local context, reports from two Southampton Village retailers, one food retailer and one wine/liquor store, provides surprising statistics. The food retailer reported using 6,000 fewer plastic bags per week and the liquor store 2,000 fewer plastic bags per week after the Southampton Village bag ban went into effect on November 6. Convert our village numbers into a city the size of LA and you can see why LA is concerned and so anxious to encourage an alternative — reusable shopping bags made of sustainable and/or recycled materials.

After one year, LA retailers will be permitted to charge 10-cents for each paper bag that consumers use. This “disincentive” aspect of the law was specifically designed to drive the consumers toward using re-useable shopping bags and to avoid the “paper or plastic” dilemma, as one is no better than the other for our environment.

LA won’t be stopping at plastic bags. It is the intention of some of their environmentally responsible City Council members to reduce more of the plastics that are presently going into their landfills at an unimaginable rate, sent there by a society of eager shoppers whose habits sometimes need managed change; even when those changes are put into legislative form.

Where to next? 

The Town of North Babylon’s Sustainability Department will be working with the Village of Southampton SAVE Committee to establish a BYO Bag Law for their municipality modeled on the successes of our village.

Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.  It’s a good thing!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Meadow Lane May 25, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Good job! Southampton is next!!
Linda Stabler-Talty May 25, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Excellent overview and statistics that are sobering…and compelling! Yes to "reduce, reuse, and recycle" and this is a continuing trend that we can all applaud and follow. Thank you, Roger, for keeping our Village's "managed change" in the public's eye. We are thrilled that more municipalities are following our lead.
Fred 'n Freeda May 25, 2012 at 02:40 PM
We love SAVE and we're proud that Southampton Village was the first in NY State to ban plastic shopping bags. Thank you, Roger, and thanks to your hard-working committee members, too. Every village should be SAVED.
Tip Brolin May 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Roger, Great post. We should all write to our Council members - in particular to Council members Nuzzi, Malone and Scalera - and urge them to support a ban NOW. Nationally less than 10% of plastic bags are returned, leaving 90% in the environment. Even if this number doubled as a result of the voluntary efforts advocated by these three Council members, 80% of the bags would remain in the environment. This in a resort community where the major attraction is the natural beauty of our area. Southampton town government should recognize the wisdom of this ban and institute it.

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