The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 on May 23 to take the necessary steps to put into place a ban on plastic bags and a 10-cent fee on paper bags.
The council's vote directed the City Attorney's Office to draft an ordinance, which will be presented to the City Council in four months.
The bag ban was opposed by several Los Angeles-area plastic bag manufacturers, including Command Packaging in Vernon, Calif., and the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which is a unit of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington.
Command Packaging said previously that a ban could trigger layoffs of between 20 and 130 employees, while the bag alliance said a ban would impact 1,900 workers in the area.
The law that the council instructed the city attorney to write up will ban plastic bags and require stores to charge 10 cents for paper bags.
The vote was preceded by a rally. Plastics company workers asked the City Council to reject the ban. Ban supporters included TV actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The vote was not the final say on the topic, although the results imply that a ban is a foregone conclusion.
Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said in a statement: “Singling out and banning one product does not reduce litter and with this bag ban, the city chose to take a simplistic approach that takes away consumer choice instead of pursuing meaningful programs that encourage greater recycling of plastic bags and wraps, while preserving jobs.”
Environmental groups like Californians Against Waste, however, pointed specifically to the marine debris problem as a reason to ban plastic bags.
“Plastic bags often become litter after being properly disposed,” said Mark Murray, CAW executive director, in a statement. “They blow out of trash cans, garbage trucks and landfills, and are carried by the wind and water throughout the environment. This is one instance where recycling doesn't seem to be the answer.”
Murray also told Plastics News: “We're on track to have bag bans in half the states before the end of the year. With or without legislative action, the single-use plastic shopping bag will be gone from California in less than five years.”
The vote makes Los Angeles the largest U.S. city to approve a ban on plastic bags.