Los Angeles Puts a Fork In Plastic
Plastic pollution is a major problem in Los Angeles because plastic makes up the majority of LA County’s litter, according to a UCLA report commissioned by LA County’s Sustainability Office. LAist recently reported that about 85% of plastic is NOT recycled, “instead, it fills up landfills or ends up in the street and gets flushed into storm drains and ultimately the ocean, causing harmful and deadly consequences to ocean life” (Restaurants In Unincorporated LA County Are Now Banned From Using Plastics, Erin Stone). Consumers are often unaware that when plastic is recycled, thrown away, or improperly put in recycling bins it often ends up in the same place and is always detrimental to the environment.
For several years, Heal the Bay has been working with LA City and County to help create legislation aiming to break the harmful plastic cycle. And finally, there is some hope.
In 2023, THREE new laws are making big waves for the environment, and ultimately, reducing plastic in our oceans. They may sound confusing, but the result is simple, less plastic! Here is Heal the Bay’s quick breakdown of those laws:
Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish
The City of Los Angeles, in accordance with the first phase of the LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) Comprehensive Plastics Reduction Program, passed several exciting laws in 2022 to reduce waste and curb plastic pollution in our region. Since then, two of those laws have officially gone into effect as LA takes major steps to reduce single-use plastics.
So Long, Styrofoam
1) The sale of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as Styrofoam, has been banned.
The LA City law went into effect on April 23, 2023, and asserts that no restaurant or retail store can give, sell, distribute, or offer products made of EPS to any consumer. This includes cups, plates, bowls, takeaway containers, egg cartons, and even ice coolers. The first phase will only impact establishments with more than 26 employees and will expand to include all restaurants and retail establishments in April 2024.
Shop Till You Drop the Plastic Bag
The LA City “plastic bag ban” has been in place for nearly a decade, banning local LA grocery stores from handing out single-use plastic bags and charging ten cents ($0.10) for alternative single-use carryout bags. This law was a means to reduce plastic in the environment and encourage the public to invest in reusable totes bags instead. In 2023, the ban on single-use plastic bags was expanded to large retail stores. Now in effect, retail establishments that employ more than 26 employees should no longer offer flimsy single-use plastic bags to consumers and will offer alternatives or paper bags for a $.10 fee. As of July 2023, all other shops including apparel stores, farmers markets, and food or beverage facilities will join the list of places to ban the bag.
If you suspect your favorite clothing store, watering hole or eatery is unaware of these new rules, let them know! Education is the most important part of creating change in your community. You can also give LA Sanitation a call and let them know, too at 213-485-2260.
LA Countywide Changes
This year has brought a big environmental win to even more places beyond the municipality limits, impacting communities all over Los Angeles County.
Sticking a Fork in the Single-Use Plastic Problem
3) LA County Foodware Ordinance:
In April 2022, LA County celebrated Earth Month with the passage of unprecedented legislation to reduce single-use plastics and curb plastic pollution and it is already being rolled out. As of May 1st, you should no longer be offered single-use plastic foodware or Styrofoam products at restaurants in the unincorporated areas of LA County! But this ordinance does so much more:
- Phases out single-use foodware that is not compostable or recyclable. Since plastic is neither, that means no more single-use plastic foodware!
- Phases out the sale of products made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) aka Styrofoam.
- Requires full-service restaurants to use reusable foodware for customers who are dining on-site (including reusable plates, cups, bowls, silverware).
The ordinance will go into effect in phases but, for now, if you see a restaurant not complying, be sure to let them know or contact LA County Public Works.
A Huge Relief and Cause for Hope
Heal the Bay volunteers have removed more than 4 trillion pieces of trash from LA County Beaches in the past 3 decades, and sadly, 80% was plastic. These ordinances are just the first steps on a long journey to end the local dependency on plastic in Los Angeles. With LA leading the way, the rest of California is following along with the passage of bills like SB54. There is finally real hope for a plastic-free future in LA with safe clean watersheds across the State.