The “paper or plastic” question has vanished from large grocery and drug stores in Calabasas.
As of July 1, the city joined the growing ranks of jurisdictions encouraging residents to bring reusable bags when shopping. Customers at Albertsons, Gelson’s, Ralphs, Maddy’s Market and Rite Aid are encouraged to bring their own totes or purchase recyclable paper bags for 10 cents each.
Smaller retail stores have until Jan. 1, 2012, to conform to the new ordinance. The ban doesn’t apply to small plastic bags needed for fruit, vegetables and raw meats.
“I’m all about being forced to do the right thing,” said Lisa Hope, a Hollywood resident who stopped at the Albertsons store on Agoura Road last Friday to purchase some beach toys.
Leah Foster of Calabasas also embraced the change.
“It cuts down into the plastic, what’s better than that,” said the Calabasas woman as she carried her groceries in a tote bag. “You just have to be mentally conscious of it. It’s about remembering to bring the reusable bag,” Foster said.
Last week, state Sen. Fran Pavley gave the city of Calabasas the Environmental Sustainability Award for its initiative to decrease the use of plastic bags.
“The state of California commends you for being an inspiration to the people of the 23rd Senate District,” the certificate states.
While most shoppers welcome the new law, some, like Cathy Ignatowicz say the regulation is ill-conceived.
“The ban is inconvenient. I don’t think it’s right for them to do that,” Ignatowicz said. Instead of buying a bag, the Chicago woman placed her groceries back into her cart without any extra packaging.
The Calabasas ban coincides with a Los Angeles County law prohibiting the use of disposable plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail shops in unincorporated areas of the county. That law also took effect last Friday. To help shoppers with the transition, the city and county distributed thousands of free reusable bags in front of affected stores.
L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said all 88 cities in L.A. County should implement similar bans to wean consumers away from the ubiquitous and polluting grocery bags.
Malibu passed the county’s first ban on single-use plastic bags in 2008. Santa Monica recently adopted a similar ordinance, which will go into effect in September.
To help cities, the county drafted a comprehensive environmental study that is available to municipalities. The report, which documents the impacts that plastic bags have on the environment, is required by state law.
According to officials, Californians use about 19 billion plastic bags each year, and less than 5 percent of bags used each year are recycled; most disposable plastic or paper bags are used for 12 minutes before being released as pollution into the environment or as waste into the landfill.
Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), who called for a statewide ban on plastic carryout bags about two years ago, is urging all Californians to give up the flimsy bags.
“I applaud Los Angeles County for recognizing the terrible toll single-use plastic bag pollution takes on marine life and wildlife in our oceans, beaches, parks and waterways,” Brownley said.