Plastic bags have come under fire as millions of the disposable bags end up in landfills, as litter and all too often in the world’s waterways. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to decompose and while doing so they expose the environment to a number of chemicals. Plastic bags, alongside other plastic products like containers and bottles, are a major cause of the floating plastic islands plaguing the world’s oceans.
Islands of trash are becoming commonplace in the world’s oceans and are especially known in the Pacific. The great Pacific garbage patch, as many have come to call it, continues to grow as plastics enter the world’s waterways. According to recent a recent study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography there is 100 times more plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean now than there was just in the 1970s.
A growing number of cities and counties are enacting plastic bag ban laws in order to reduce pollution and decrease the impact on the environment. Recently Los Angeles County, all counties of Hawaii and Seattle have joined the list of those banning plastic bags. The first city to do so was San Francisco back in 2007. Since then Malibu, Palo Alto and other cities have been added to the list in California. Forty-seven cities just in the state of California have banned plastic bags with Los Angeles now joining the group.
The Los Angeles City Council passed the ban on plastic bags recently with of vote of 13-1. The ban makes Los Angeles the largest U.S. city, having a population of about four million, to have a plastic bag ban, signaling a potential change in plastic bag use across the country. The ban will need to be given an environmental review but once this is done the ban will be enacted.
Major stores will have six months to phase out the use of plastic bags, with small stores having a year to do so. Once these time periods have passed the retailers are permitted to use paper bags during checkout at no expense to the consumer. However, after this time period the retailers will be required to charge 10 cents per paper bag. The cost is meant as an incentive to have customers bring reusable bags. However, the council had contemplated banning paper bags as well and will look in on the possibility once more in another two years.
An estimated 2.7 billion plastic bags are used each year in Los Angeles. Forty-three percent of the trash in Los Angeles is compiled of plastic, nineteen percent of which is plastic bags.