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Departments - Editor's Column

January 29, 2014
DeAnne Toto

DeAnne Toto

Los Angeles’ plastic bag ban went into effect at the start of the year. It currently applies to large retailers in the city that sell groceries. In July the ban will expand to include drug stores, smaller grocers and convenience stores. Under the ban, grocery store customers must bring reusable bags with them to carry home their produce and pantry staples or purchase paper bags at the store for 10 cents each.

According to the ordinance, “The city of Los Angeles spends millions of dollars annually on prevention, cleanup and other activities to abate litter, and it has a significant interest in protecting its residents from the negative impacts caused by plastic single-use carryout bags.”

Retailers who violate the ban face fines ranging from $200 to $500. Fines are assessed for each day a violation occurs or is allowed to continue.

Other California cities with similar bans include West Hollywood and Santa Monica. Cities considering bag bans include Dallas and Cambridge, Mass.

While the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a group of American plastic bag manufacturers, has been fighting these ordinances, one plastic bag manufacturer has introduced a reusable plastic bag made from 50-percent-recycled agricultural plastics that are generated nearby.

Encore Recycling, Salinas, Calif., is processing agricultural plastics into pellets that its sister company, Command Packaging, Vernon, Calif., is manufacturing into reusable plastic bags that are designed to meet the requirements of single-use plastic bag bans. In the case of the Los Angeles ban, reusable bags must have a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, which means they are capable of carrying a minimum of 22 pounds 125 times over a distance of at least 175 feet. Such bags must have a minimum volume of 15 liters and, if made of plastic, be at least 2.25 millimeters thick. (Turn to page 84 for a profile of Command Packaging and Encore Recycling titled “Sustainable choices.”)

While Command has responded to the bans by offering a reusable choice, the company’s CEO Pete Grande says, “Hopefully, the local and state governments that have decided to vilify certain plastics will finally embrace the truth that plastic is an extremely valuable, and recyclable, commodity. Once they do, the narrative can move away from bans to promoting policies that create opportunity for products to be designed to be recyclable as well as to be made from recycled plastics.

“I am optimistic that states like California will begin to create policies that create pathways for a plastic recycling infrastructure by encouraging the selection of products that are made from recycled materials.”

Many plastic bag manufacturers, no doubt, share Grande’s hope. However, momentum seems to be on the side of bans currently, meaning the American Progressive Bag Alliance and bag manufacturers such as Command still have their work cut out for them.