Already, San Francisco had recently passed a law prohibiting large grocery stores in the city from giving away plastic bags to customers. Similar initiatives have been making their way through Berkeley and other parts of the Bay Area. In addition, iconic Swedish retailer IKEA has made headlines by charging consumers a nickel per plastic bag taken out of the store.
While LA's city council is set to debate a possible ban on plastic bags in its jurisdiction, some observers are arguing that such a strict stance isn't optimal. Los Angeles Times editors point out that IKEA's small fee has caused use of plastic bags at its stores to plummet by 92%, while similar results are being seen across Ireland, which recently instituted a country-wide fee.
Here's where it gets a little complicated, according to the Times. A 2006 bill in California prohibits local governments from imposing fees on plastic shopping bags (we wonder who lobbied for that one?). A new bill, AB 2058 by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), hopes to repeal that ban. But in the meantime, cities can either ban plastic bags or pretty much just live with the waste, which the Times calls an "environmental atrocity."
The LA ban being discussed would affect all plastic carry-out bags at supermarkets and other retail stores by 2012 but only if no fees can be imposed instead. This would give business owners more than enough time to come up with alternatives, whether they give discounts to the BYOB crowd, switch to recycled paper carry-outs or other ideas.
It's true 2012 is a ways away, and by then many sea turtles and other wildlife will have choked to death on plastic detritus, and the giant floating island of plastic in the Pacific which some call Gilligan's Island from the trashy sitcom that won't go away will likely have grown. Hopefully, retailers will get the message, see the writing on the wall, and start switching to more eco-friendly options ASAP, and government bans won't even be needed.
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