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!