Top

Heal the Bay Blog

Category: California Bag Ban

“We cannot recycle our way out of our plastics problem. The only way is to eliminate its use in the first place.”  – L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

The City of Los Angeles has long been a leader on environmental issues. The city’s plastic bag ban took effect in 2014, following years of advocacy by Heal the Bay’s science and policy team. Thanks to that effort, momentum built for a statewide ban in 2016.

Since then, we have seen a marked reduction of single-use plastic bags in the state – some 70% reduction in bag litter, according to Californians Against Waste.

This week, the L.A. City Council made more progress toward moving forward on two new and critical goals to help reduce waste locally.

First, the Council voted unanimously Tuesday to craft a plastic straws ordinance that takes the statewide ‘single-use plastic straws on request’ policy even further. The new measure would require customers to explicitly ask for a plastic straw at all food and beverage facilities in the City of L.A., with a goal of phasing out single-use plastic straws by 2021.

Heal the Bay volunteers have removed more than 2.5 million pounds of trash from L.A County beaches, rivers and neighborhoods. Most of this trash consists of plastic, polystyrene and single-use items. Since 2000, Heal the Bay volunteers have picked up more than 126,000 straws and stirrers — these materials pose serious risks to our environment and local wildlife.

It’s becoming clear that we cannot continue to look at this plastic waste problem item-by-item; we must address it comprehensively. The negative impacts of single-use plastics on our oceans are well known. If we do not change our practices, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 (by weight), according to a recent study.

Only a few hours after the full Council voted to move forward with drafting the Plastic Straws-On-Request Ordinance with hopes of implementing it by Earth Day 2019, its Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justices subcommittee also voted unanimously to propose an even more comprehensive zero-waste initiative to address ALL single-use plastic waste.

The zero-waste initiative instructs the Bureau of Sanitation to analyze the feasibility of pursuing alternative approaches to waste reduction (besides recycling). Examples include measures adopted by the EU (25% reduction in plastics production by 2030) and those in Berkeley (ban all single-use foodware used by restaurants and other food establishments).

The Bureau of Sanitation will report back to the Council within 60 days with a report on its findings and recommendations for further action.

Heal the Bay is heartened to see the city taking a firm stance on the critical issue of plastic pollution. As demonstrated by the plastic bag ban, the changes that we make here in L.A. can have far reaching impacts beyond our borders.

We have the opportunity to stand by California cities like Berkeley and Santa Monica, which have pursued aggressive plastic reduction efforts. Beyond curbing waste in our home, the measure would serve as a strong example for the almost 50 million tourists who visit L.A. each year.

When L.A. makes noise, the rest of the world listens.



Reusable bags at Walmart, courtesy of Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune

Dec. 8, 2016 — Way back in the old days (before Nov. 8, that is) your trip to a grocery store in California frequently ended with two options: paper or plastic. Since then, voters across the state passed Proposition 67, and California became the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags. Now you are faced with two new options at the grocery store: paper or reusable.

But wait … why does it look like grocery stores are still offering plastic bags? And why are you getting charged for taking bags? What does this new era of grocery shopping mean?

Have no fear! We’ve compiled a Prop 67 sheet to address all of your questions about the bill and what will happen at the checkout stand going forward.

Plastic bags at checkout, image courtesy of Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago TribuneWhy are some grocery stores still offering plastic bags at the checkout?

While it does look like plastic bags are still an option at some stores (we’ve seen them at Ralphs, Vons, CVS, and Smart & Final), these bags are different than the ones you’re used to seeing. The new law forbids grocery stores from providing single-use plastic bags to customers, even if they sold it for a fee. Instead, stores can sell thicker-skinned bags that can be reused at least 125 times over its lifetime. (And the reusable bag must be able to carry 22 pounds over a distance of 175 feet and must be at least 2.25 mm thick, if you want to be exact.)

These reusable bags can be made of plastic, so yes, they can still pose a threat to ocean animals. While this bill is not perfect (no bill can be passed without some compromise!), getting rid of all those flimsy one-use bags will still have incredible positive impacts on California’s waste stream and environment. We’ve already seen significant reduction in the amount of plastic bags in cities that had their own bag bans in place before Prop 67 passed. In the one year since its bag ban was enacted, the city of San Jose saw a 76% reduction in creek and river litter, a 59% drop in park and roadside plastic bag litter, and a 69% reduction in plastic bag litter in storm drains.

This shows how just a simple change in consumer behavior can have a significant impact on the environment. Millions of Californians in the more than 150 cities and counties that already had their own bag bans have proved that it’s easy and effective.

Paper grocery bagWhat does the law say about paper bags?

The law states that paper grocery bags must contain a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled materials. Smaller paper bags, like the ones you would typically find in the produce or deli sections, must contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled materials. Many stores are offering paper bags that are made out of 100% post-consumer recycled materials, which is a good thing.

However, there are still environmental consequences from the production and distribution of paper bags. Though Proposition 67 banned single-use plastic bags, the bag ban has also caused a dramatic decrease of paper bags used across the state. Because shoppers are bringing reusable bags with them to the grocery store, the use of paper bags in Los Angeles dropped by about 40% since its bag ban went into effect.

So bring your own durable reusable bag with you. When the checkout clerk asks you if you want paper or reusable plastic, you already have your answer – neither!

coins-can-be-exchanged-for-goods-and-servicesHow much can I be charged for a paper or reusable bag?

According to the law, a grocery store must charge at least 10 cents for a paper or reusable grocery bag. This was put in the bill to ensure that the cost of providing a reusable grocery bag is not subsidized by a customer who does not need that bag. However, stores can charge more than 10 cents for a bag if they want to, just as they can set the price point for any other good sold.

Participants in WIC or CalFresh (SNAP) using a voucher or EBT card are exempt from the bag fee and reusable or paper bags must be offered to these customers free of charge.

I heard people opposing Prop 67 say that the grocery stores are being greedy and are making a profit by charging us for bags. Is that true?

Simply put, this was a lie spread by the plastic bag manufactures to spook people into voting against the proposition. The law clearly states that the money collected from bag sales may be used only for the following purposes:

  • Costs associated with complying with the law.
  • Actual costs of providing recycled paper bags or reusable grocery bags.
  • Costs associated with a store’s educational materials or educational campaign encouraging the use of reusable grocery bags.

Are plastic produce bags still allowed? Are we being charged for them?

Yes – plastic produce bags, meat bags, and bread bags are exempt from this law. While the law does not require that a store charges for the sale of these bags, the store can if it wants to, just as it can set the price for any good it sells. It seems that most stores are continuing with business as usual, which means that the cost of the bags are lumped in with other operational costs that are absorbed in the price of the goods you buy.

What types of stores are included in the ban? What types of stores are exempt?

Plastic bags are banned from the following types of stores:

  • Grocery stores (e.g. Albertson’s, Ralphs, Target, Walmart, Vons, 99 Cent Only, etc.)
  • Drug stores and pharmacies (e.g. Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, etc.)
  • Convenience food stores and food-marts (e.g. 7-Eleven, AM PM Mini Markets, etc.)
  • Liquor stores (e.g. BevMo, local liquor stores, mini-marts, etc.)

The following types of stores are exempt from the plastic bag ban:

  • Restaurants
  • Farmers markets
  • Hardware stores (e.g. Home Depot, Lowes, etc.)
  • Retail stores (e.g. Macy’s, JC Penny, Ross, TJ Maxx, etc.)

Blue recycling binsWhat should I do with all of the plastic bags I’ve saved under my kitchen sink?

With the New Year approaching, now is a great time to set your resolution to free yourself of single-use plastic! The best thing to do is recycle the single-use plastic bags you have. Did you know that in the City of Los Angeles, you can put them straight into your blue curbside recycling bin? We recommend you bundle them all together in one bag to reduce the chances of them flying away in transport and becoming pollution. If you don’t live in L.A., check with your city about what is and is not accepted in your curbside recycling program. You can also check out Earth911 to search for recycling facilities near you. Most grocery stores collect plastic bags for recycling as well.

Want to nerd out and read all of the policy language written into the bill?

We did! You can read the bag ban’s official text on the California Legislature’s website.



UPDATE: 4:14 p.m., Nov. 10, 2016:

While California waits for the last 3 million mail-in votes to be counted, it is projected by a number of influential media outlets that Proposition 67 will PASS! Once the Secretary of State declares the results official, the plastic bag ban will go into effect immediately. This makes California the first state to pass a comprehensive ban on single use plastic bags. As the nation looks to California as a progressive environmental leader, we hope that our hard-fought, grassroots-led victory inspires other states to enact a bag ban of their own.

We’re grateful for the passionate, powerful coalition of environmental groups, community leaders, and dedicated volunteers, without whom this victory simply wouldn’t have been possible. 

For the latest Prop 67 results coverage, check out the Sacramento Bee and New York Times.

Nov. 9, 2016 — Tova Handelman, Heal the Bay’s Coastal Resources Coordinator, dives into the election results and finds some treasures worth celebrating.

So much has happened in the last 24 hours. The dust has yet to settle from the presidential and state elections. Through the haze, it can be hard to see the long, grueling path that led us here. Even more uncertain is what the road ahead looks like for the country, and its environmental progress.

Well before the primaries and up until yesterday, Heal the Bay – alongside our incredible partner organizations, and fueled by dedicated members like you – led efforts to enact some real environmental change locally and across California during this election season. We advocated for several propositions and city measures before, and are truly proud to see the results of our efforts this time. This campaign season has given us a lot of firsts–some good and some downright puzzling. But we are proud to say that this is the first time we’ve seen such across-the-board success for the environmental measures we worked so hard to endorse.

Let’s take a look at some key environmental measures on the ballot–and what will happen next:

Measure A: PASSED!

A big victory with a huge margin, Measure A passed with 73.5% of the Los Angeles vote. This means that an annual parcel tax of 1.5 cents per square foot of development will generate approximately $94 million per year. This money will go directly to local communities to protect, enhance, and maintain our local parks, beaches, and open spaces.

Measure M: PASSED!

Sick and tired of traffic and its effect on air quality in Los Angeles? You’re not alone: Measure M passed overwhelmingly with nearly 70% of the vote – well over the two-thirds share it needed to pass. Measure M adds a half-cent sales tax and extends the existing half-cent increase passed in 2008 with Measure R. This tax will generate $120 billion over 40 years to fund major extensions to subway lines, including a line under the Sepulveda Pass to connect the San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles.

Measure CW: PASSED!

Residents of Culver City voted to create a dedicated funding source in the form of a parcel tax to pay for water quality programs that will prevent pollution in our waterways, beaches, and the Ballona Creek Estuary. The tax is expected to generate $2 million per year, and all money will be used in Culver City to reduce water pollution. This will ultimately help to improve water quality in Santa Monica Bay!

Proposition 65: FAILED!

Try as they might, the plastic bag manufacturing companies behind Prop 65 couldn’t trick us into undoing California’s plastic bag ban. This proposition was intentionally vague to confuse voters by thinking they were voting for an environmental fund, when the fine print actually said the bag ban would be overturned should Prop 65 pass. Thanks to our tireless volunteers and incredible efforts from partner organizations, we were able to get the word out and educate voters on the issue. Looks like Californians do their homework, because we are now one step closer to banning plastic bags from grocery stores statewide.

Proposition 67: NOT FINAL YET, BUT IT’S LOOKING GOOD!

Heal the Bay has been working for years to eliminate plastic pollution from our waterways and beaches. Two years ago, we rejoiced when SB270 passed, making California the first state to ban plastic grocery bags. The plastic bag manufacturers didn’t take the news well, however, and spent over $6 million to get the bill back on the ballot as a referendum in the form of Prop 67. Our volunteers spent long days at tabling events and long nights phone banking to encourage voters to uphold our statewide plastic bag ban, and it seems like their efforts paid off. The polls are too close to call just yet, but the projections are promising. Once the final verdict is called, the plastic bag ban will go into effect immediately at grocery stores, pharmacies, and liquor stores across the state. Paper bags will still be available for 10 cents. Over 660 ocean species have been found to ingest or become entangled in plastic pollution, so a statewide ban is a HUGE victory for the environment–and ocean animals.

Though it is unclear what will play out nationally, there is one thing you can certainly count on: Heal the Bay will continue to fight to protect what you love. Supported by thousands of ocean-loving Angelenos and guided by sound science, we will press on to advance local, regional, and statewide environmental policies and educate the next generation of ocean advocates.

Thanks to you, we won so much yesterday. And with your help, we will continue fighting, stronger than ever, for a cleaner, healthier, bluer Los Angeles.



October 28, 2016 — Día de los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” happens to take place just days before the general election. In the spirit of this hallowed Mexican holiday, we hope you enjoy our new video. (Haga clic aquí para español.)

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, traditionally occurs on November 1 and 2–just days before the general election on Tuesday, November 8.

The traditional Mexican celebration is about making contact with the spirits of the dead, to let them know that they are not forgotten and that we still care about them here on Earth. So we thought, what better way to tell the story of plastic bag pollution than to connect with sea creatures that have died because of plastic pollution in our oceans?

In our new mini-film “Los Fantasmas Del Mar,” a medium has the uncanny ability to speak with marine mammals that have passed on from this world. Tapping into the great abyss, she communicates with the spirit of a gray whale that happens to know a surprising amount about California politics–and Proposition 67 in particular. Who knew?

Our creative partners–many of whom worked on our viral hit “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” filmed Sra. Sargassos in her native language, but they’ve added English subtitles to reach more voters.

Be sure to check out and contribute to our traveling Día de Los Muertos altar devoted to marine life:

Feliz Día de Los Muertos and remember to vote YES on Prop 67 and NO on Prop 65! To learn more, visit https://healthebay.org/yeson67

Muchissimas gracias to our pro-bono team: Lupe Gudino, Jose Flick, Arnie Presiado, Gary Le Vine, Kevin McCarthy, Regie Miller, Paul Flick and, finally, Alicia Wu as the mysterious Sra. Sargossas.

***

Día de los muertos, o Day of the Dead, tradicionalmente ocurre en Noviembre 1 y 2, días antes de la elección general del Martes, Noviembre 8.

La tradicional celebración mexicana se trata de conectarse con los espíritus de los muertos, para dejarles saber que no han sido olvidados y que todavía se les quiere en esta tierra.¿Así que pensamos, qué mejor manera de contar la historia de la contaminación de la bolsa de plástico que conectarnos con las criaturas marinas que han muerto debido a la contaminación de la bolsa de plástico en nuestros océanos?

En nuestra ultimo mini-corto “Los Fantasmas Del Mar”, Una medium tiene la gran habilidad de hablar con los mamíferos que se han marchado de este mundo. tocando el gran abismo, Ella se comunica con una ballena gris quien sorprendentemente sabe mucho sobre política en California y en particular sobre la proposición 67, Quien podría saberlo?

Nuestros creativos socios – muchos de los cuales trabajaron en nuestro exito viral “La majestuosa bolsa de plástico,” filmaron a la Sra. Sargassos en su idioma nativo, pero han agregado subtítulos en inglés para llegar a más votantes

Asegúrese de echar un vistazo y contribuir a nuestro altar de Día de Los Muertos dedicado a la vida marina en estas dos locaciones:

Feliz Día de Los Muertos y recuerden en votar SI en Prop 67 y NO en Prop 65!

Muchissimas gracias a nuestro equipo de pro bono: Lupe Gudino, Jose Flick, Arnie Presiado, Gary Le Vine, Kevin McCarthy, Regie Miller, Paul Flick y, por último, Alicia Wu como la misteriosa Sra. Sargossos.



Oct. 6, 2016 — Manufacturers are trying to overturn the state’s effective bag ban at the ballot box this November. 

Did you know that all that hard work we did together to get California’s plastic bag ban passed in the state legislature years ago is now under threat? Out-of-state and out-of-touch Big Plastic is pushing bags on us once again by funding an initiative to overturn the statewide ban.

So please come out Nov. 8 during the presidential election to vote YES to uphold the sensible ban. Bag bans work! Why go back? We know you get it, but here’s info to share with your network.

 

 Reason #1: Plastic bags kill wildlife1.      Bags kill wildlife.

Plastic bag pollution poses a deadly threat to 663 species of marine and land animals. Each year, thousands of animals become entangled in plastic bags and drown, or ingest them and starve.

 Reason #2: Plastic bags poison the food chain2.      They poison the food chain.

In the ocean, plastic bags break down into tiny pieces, which absorb large amounts of pollutants. These toxic pellets are then eaten by small fish and animals that are in turn eaten by larger fish… ultimately passing those toxins on to us. Do you want to eat plastic-filled fish?

 Reason #3: Plastic bags are used for <12 minutes3.      They’re used for just a few minutes, but last a few lifetimes.

A shopper will typically use a single-use plastic bag for fewer than 12 minutes. However, that bag will remain in our environment for up to 1,000 years and will never fully biodegrade.

 Reason #4: <5% of plastic bags are recycled4.      Less than 5% of plastic bags are recycled in California.

The plastic bag industry may say recycling is the answer, but that’s simply not the case. The tiny fraction of bags that do make it to recycling plants yield very little usable material.

 Reason #5: Plastics in the ocean could outweigh fish by 20505.      Plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050.

If we don’t take immediate action to reduce our appetite for plastic products, you’ll soon be more likely to reel in a food wrapper than a rockfish. 

 Reason #6: Cleaning up plastic bags costs taxpayers millions.6.      They cost taxpayers millions every year to clean up.

NRDC estimates that California spends up to $100 million each year dealing with plastic bag litter. We can think of a few million better ways to spend taxpayer dollars.

 Reason #7: Plastic bags aren't free7.      They make shopping more expensive.

Think you’ve been getting all those plastic grocery bags on the house? Think again. The real cost of those “freebies” is built into the price of consumer goods.

 Reason #8: Plastic bags are an eyesore8.      They’re an eyesore in our neighborhoods.

Chances are you’ve seen a few of these “urban tumbleweeds” blighting your block. Banned bags mean cleaner communities.

 Reason #9: The plastic bag industry profits off pollution9.      The plastic bag industry profits off pollution.

Plastic bags are big business in California, racking up nearly $200 million in 2012 alone. But who’s raking it in? Not the Golden State: 98% of contributions to keep plastic bags were from companies outside of California.

Reason #10: A statewide bag ban would make things simpler10.     A statewide ban would streamline existing bag laws.

Over 1/3 of Californians enjoy living in 148 communities where bags are already banned. A statewide solution would simplify this regulatory jumble for retailers and shoppers alike.

 

 Download this fact sheet.

Learn more about Prop 67.

Top 10 Reasons to vote YES on Prop 67!



Heal the Bay CEO Ruskin Hartley shares his thoughts on a very good day for the prospect of a statewide ban on plastic bags.

I came back to my desk on Wednesday to a pink Post-It note letting me know that state Sen. Kevin de León’s office had called. The note was simple: Please call back. It was “quite pressing.”  His staff wanted to invite Heal the Bay to speak at a press conference on Friday announcing that state legislative leaders had finally come together and forged a compromise on a new bill that would ban single-use plastic bags across the state.

L.A.-based state Sens. Alex Padilla and de Leon have found a workaround on an issue that helped short-circuit previous legislation: the notion that bans would kill local jobs. The legislative approach revealed Friday includes incentives for manufacturers to retool and build their reusable bag-product lines, thereby investing in green jobs right here in California. 

After seven long years and several Heal the Bay campaigns, it appears that the end is in sight for single-use plastic grocery bags across the state. While SB 270 still needs to make its way through both houses and off the Governor’s desk, we are optimistic — now that  two of the Senate’s heaviest hitters are behind it. (Assemblymember Ricardo Lara also joined the conference, helping solidify the bloc of local Democrats who historically have had concerns with elements of past bag-ban proposals.)

If SB 270 moves forward, California will become the first state in the nation to pass a comprehensive ban on single-use plastic bags.

Heal the Bay scientist Sarah Sikich, Senator Alex Padilla, Heal the Bay CEO Ruskin Hartley, and Senator Kevin de Leon Yes, people will criticize it from both sides – as either going too far, or not far enough. But this afternoon at the press conference at a manufacturing plant in Vernon it was heartening to see voices from labor, manufacturers, community groups and the environment come together. Everyone can rally around a solution that shows that California continues to lead on issues that are good for the environment and business.  

We started this campaign with our colleagues in the environmental community seven years ago. This issue would not even be on the radar screen of the Legislature were it not for the voices of our supporters and other concerned groups around the state.

Today, bag bans cover 90 municipalities in California, creating a regulatory hodgepodge and a patchwork of environmental protections. When the state acts comprehensively, we’ll have taken a big step forward that can serve as inspiration for the rest of the nation. We will help tackle the scourge of marine pollution and urban blight, and show that being green can also support our economy. Thank you!



Experts say that the best way to break an unhealthy habit is to replace it with a healthy one. And Heal the Bay is here to help you replace your plastic shopping bags with reusables as you shop this holiday season.

To prepare, we’re busily organizing the distribution of thousands of reusable bags across Los Angeles on November 18.

Sound familiar? For the past six years, we’ve made “plastic-free” a holiday shopping tradition, trotting out Green Santa to help us spread eco-friendly cheer for what we used to call “Day Without a Bag.”

Now, to help Angelenos adjust to the upcoming plastic bag ban (effective Jan. 1, 2014), we’ve rebranded this annual citywide event as “Day With a Bag” to get shoppers accustomed to bringing their own reusable bags to the market.

We worked hard to help pass the citywide ban. Yet, despite feeling elated with the victory, we remain focused and hopeful that our efforts will fuel a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the fact that by going reusable, you’re also gifting the planet this holiday season.

We’re giving away nearly 10,000 reusable shopping bags, so find a giveaway location near you!



We did it! After seven years of hard work and diligence, California is poised to become the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic grocery bags. The overwhelming response has been one of excitement, but we realize there are some residents who have concerns. Nancy Shrodes, our volunteer coordinator, answers a few typical questions.

How do I pick up my dog’s poop?

Yes, plastic bags are handy for picking up animal waste, but there are alternative and easy ways to continue to be a responsible pet owner! For example, you can bring last week’s newspaper on your walk and use it to pick up poop. You can also re-use the grocery store produce bags or other forms of food packaging like bagel or bread bags.

I line my trash cans with plastic bags from the grocery store. Now what am I going to use?

Line the bottom of your bin with newspaper or other paper, and rinse it out periodically after use. You can also buy heavier-weight plastic bags and REUSE them after dumping waste into your outside bin. 

What about using biodegradable bags?

A “biodegradable” plastic bag is a bit of a misnomer. These bags can only break down under very specific conditions and do NOT break down naturally in our waterways, posing a threat to animal life. Bags on our streets inevitably end up in our rivers and ocean, facilitated by the city’s storm drain system. To fully degrade, these bags require heat and specific bacteria present in industrial composting facilities.

Will I get sick from using a reusable bag?

No! I have been using reusable bags for years and have never gotten sick from them. You can easily avoid any chance of getting sick with easy-care tips. Just use common sense and everyday hygiene. Throw your cloth/fabric tote bags into the wash with your laundry load to clean them. Any of the thick plastic reusable bags should be wiped clean and allowed to dry before you store them. Voilà! You are germ free and the environment is healthier too!

Aren’t there bigger things to worry about than plastic bags?

Yes, the world is filled with many pressing problems. But Heal the Bay has spent a lot of attention to this issue because plastic bags ARE a big problem — blighting neighborhoods, clogging storm drains and harming animals. They are also a powerful symbol of our throwaway culture. This is a gateway issue for us. The healthy debate about bags gets people to think about other wasteful practices in their daily lives, be it using single-use water bottles or taking a drinking straw at the corner restaurant. Little things add up to bigger things. 

Before joining Heal the Bay, Nancy worked on the bag ban campaign for Environment California.



To help educate California state legislators about the ecological and economic importance of the sea to all Californians, Heal the Bay staff joined our fellow environmental advocates in the 6th annual Ocean Day at the state Capitol on April 16, 2013. The event lets us work with policymakers to find effective legislative solutions that protect and restore California’s iconic ocean and coastline.

Ocean Day participants, representing over a dozen non-governmental organizations, were able to stop by the offices of all 120 California senators and assemblymembers to discuss preventing stormwater runoff and plastic pollution, the success of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, and the impacts of climate change to California’s inland and coastal communities.

The timing of Ocean Day couldn’t have been better. Two important bills that would help prevent plastic pollution from trashing our communities and beaches were heard in the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee the day after the event: SB 405 and SB 529.

SB 405, introduced by Sen. Padilla (D-Pacoima), would phase out single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, and pharmacies and place a charge on single-use paper bags with the hope of encouraging people to bring reusable bags. The bill cleared the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with the votes of Sens. Hill (D-San Mateo), Hancock (D-Berkeley), Leno (D-San Francisco), Corbett (D-Hayward) and Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). It will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Heal the Bay has long supported passage of a statewide single-use bag bill as a means to comprehensively address the negative environmental and economic impacts caused by single-use plastic bags, and Ocean Day presented another opportunity to educate legislators on plastic pollution before this critical Committee vote. As Sen. Padilla noted in a news release about the committee hearing, “Single-use plastic bags are not just a coastal issue. In our mountains, the winds blow discarded bags up into the trees, you can also find them in our rivers and streams, in our parks, and throughout our communities. It is a statewide problem that deserves a statewide solution — a solution that focuses on reducing the use of plastic bags.” We will continue to work with Sen. Padilla’s office to ensure passage of this important (and long-overdue) piece of legislation.

Another bill supported by Heal the Bay – SB 529, introduced by Sen. Leno (D-San Francisco) – would move fast-food chain restaurants away from foamed polystyrene and other nonrecyclable/noncompostable plastics, again with the hope of encouraging more sustainable packaging options. The bill also passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with the votes of Sens. Hill, Hancock, Corbett, Leno and Jackson. It will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Novelist Ralph Ellison said that education is all a matter of building bridges. Ocean Day was an opportunity for Heal the Bay and others to reach out to legislators and educate them on the problem of plastic pollution and possible legislative solutions. This information was clearly heard by legislators, and today’s Environmental Quality Committee hearing was an important step in ending California’s addition to single-use plastics. Stay tuned for updates on these bills throughout the legislative session!

— Kathryn Benz, Heal the Bay Policy Analyst

Live in the city of Los Angeles? Urge your councilmember to finalize the single-use bag ordinance that will keep plastic bags from trashing our communities and beaches!



 “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

― Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

We know that billions of single-use plastic bags are used in Los Angeles every year, and that the majority of single-use plastic bags – even if reused once or twice by consumers – end up in our landfills or as part of the litter stream, polluting our inland and coastal communities and wasting taxpayer dollars on cleanup costs.

Los Angeles, we are at a tipping point when it comes to tackling the scourge of plastic bag pollution.

On May 23, 2012, the Los Angeles City Council voted to move forward with drafting an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags and place a charge on paper bags at grocery stores and select other retailers throughout the City. The Bureau of Sanitation recently released its draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF) for public review and comment; comments are due on March 11, 2013. It is our hope that the City Council will vote on the ordinance later this spring.

If adopted, Los Angeles will be the largest city in the United States to approve a single-use bag ordinance, and its passage will send a clear message to the rest of the state (and country) that addressing plastic bag waste (and by implication, our disposable consumer culture) is an idea whose time has come.

In fact, once passed, Los Angeles will join the company of 65 California counties and cities that have banned plastic bags, including many jurisdictions in SoCal. And by the looks of it, that number is set to grow; City Councils in Sacramento, Culver City and Huntington Beach, among others, are currently engaged in discussions about whether to enact their own single-use bag ordinances. The idea of reducing the economic waste and environmental impacts associated with single-use bag litter has even spread to the California statehouse where State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and State Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) have introduced bag bills.

But first we have to reach the tipping point by passing the Los Angeles bag ordinance. Stay tuned for more information about the City Council’s final vote later this spring and how you can get involved! Follow us on Twitter to stay-up-to-date.

Want to help reduce marine debris? Join one of our cleanups!

Stay engaged with Heal the Bay as we head toward the finish line in Los Angeles.