2012-02-02 / Front Page

Calabasas plastic bag ban seems to carry weight

All retailers must abide by new law
By Sylvie Belmond


PACKAGE DEAL—A shopper gets help with reusable bags. 
Acorn file foto PACKAGE DEAL—A shopper gets help with reusable bags. Acorn file foto Many shoppers in Calabasas appear to welcome the city’s prohibition on carryout plastic bags. But others say the regulation is an infringement on personal liberty and a drag on business.

The Calab asas City Council is debating the pros and cons of the plastic bag ban, which affects all retail stores in the city. The ban went into effect last July.

While larger stores, such as Albertsons and Rite Aid, had to comply right away, smaller retails stores had until Jan. 1 to conform to the ordinance.

Though stores will no longer provide free disposable plastic bags, customers have the option to buy recyclable paper bags for 10 cents each.

To help with the transition, the city worked to educate residents about the benefits of the ban and to promote the use of reusable bags.

But some shoppers are still unaware of the ban and aren’t happy about the 10-cent fee to purchase paper bags, Alex Farassati, environmental services manager for Calabasas, said in a report.

According to the report, more than 330,000 paper bags were sold between July 1 and Jan. 1, totaling about $32,000 in revenue for large shops. Store managers believe the sale of paper bags will drop in 2012 as residents become accustomed to carrying reusable bags when they run errands.

The shops have also sold a large number of reusable bags.

Overall, stores are reporting a smooth transition to the ban on plastic. Merchants believe shoppers have adjusted well to the ban and most are amenable to the change because they believe it will benefit the environment.

Resident Dale Reicheneder initially opposed the ordinance because he considered it an intrusion. But he said the law has forced him to change old habits and decrease his consumption of disposable plastic bags.

“I learned from it and I think I’m better for it,” Reicheneder said.

Other speakers endorsed the ban in front of the City Council, describing how it protects local creeks, beaches and the environment.

Calabasas officials made a prudent decision, said Kirsten James, water quality director with Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental organization.

“It is making a difference, and we need to continue on this path,” James said, adding that fewer bags have been found in local waterways since the ban went into effect.

Sarah Paulson Sheehy, a representative for the California Grocers Association, said her organization has no qualms about the prohibition on plastic bags.

Although the transition at some stores hasn’t been seamless, “we as an association are comfortable with the ordinance,” she said.

Rick Crandall, an environmental department representative for Albertsons, said his company is happy with the approach the city took.

“Most customers don’t understand that bags have never been free,” he said. The costs are always passed on to consumers, who pay for them one way or another.

But not everyone is so agreeable.

In October, a lawsuit was filed challenging Los Angeles County’s plastic bag ordinance. The suit alleges that the 10-cent charge for paper bags is a special tax that cannot be enforced without voter approval.

“It’s inappropriate for a city to establish the price an establishment should charge for anything,” Calabasas resident Thomas Hanson said.

Martin Goldstein, who lives just outside the city limits on Mulholland Drive, said he no longer buys large quantities of goods from Calabasas stores because it’s too inconvenient.

Stores should be able to supply plastic bags if they choose, Goldstein said.

Paul Mac, who owns a gas station in Calabasas, asked officials to better educate consumers who don’t live in the city.

“We get a lot of transient customers. When they purchase items and bring them to the cashier and learn there is a 10-cent charge, at times they get rude or leave the store,” Mac said.

Alicia Weintraub, a member of the Calabasas Environmental Commission, suggested the city develop the capability to field complaints. That would take the burden of angry customers away from store employees, she said.

“The problem is that some store employees get harassed by customers who oppose the ban,” Weintraub said.

Because the ordinance for smaller stores only went into effect four weeks ago, it’s too early to evaluate its impact, Farassati said.

The Environmental Commission will revisit the ordinance in about six months.

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