Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Christine Emerson
Observer Staff Writer 

Vons Stores Give Customers Plastic Bags Instead of Paper at Local Pavilions Stores

Five Year Old plastic bag ban is a study in the law of unintended consequences.

 

October 4, 2016

The five year old plastic bag ban in Santa Monica is a study in the law of unintended consequences.

9/30: This week the Vons and Pavilions stores in Santa Monica and the local region have been selling customers "reusable" plastic bags instead of providing the usual, more environmentally-friendly paper bags. The plastic bags of thicker plastic than the old, free grocery bags, cost 25 cents. The paper bags, when they were available, cost 10 cents.

The use of plastic bags became a hot issue when local marine biologists and other environmentalists decried the eventual settlement of these bags in storm drain outlets and the ocean. Plastic bags harm many types of marine and flying wildlife, some of whom eat the bags, clogging their intestines, and others of which get caught in the bags. Santa Monica voted to ban plastic bags at various retail stores in 2011. The City of Los Angeles followed with their own plastic bag ban in 2014.

According to the City of Santa Monica website, the average free plastic bag is used 12 minutes before being thrown in the trash or released as litter. Less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled. Littered plastic bags stay in the environment for decades.

This week the Vons and Pavilions stores in Santa Monica and the local region have been selling customers "reusable" plastic bags instead of providing the usual, more environmentally-friendly paper bags. The plastic bags of thicker plastic than the old, free grocery bags, cost 25 cents. The paper bags, when they were available, cost 10 cents.

The 2011 law banning bags was pushed by Heal the Bay and other environmental groups that say widespread use of the cheap bags has created a global "plastic pollution plague."

Under the ordinance, plastic bags are no longer be available at grocery stores, clothing shops or other retailers, although restaurants may use them for takeout food. Smaller plastic "product bags" with no handles, like those used for produce, are allowed for public health reasons.

Heal the Bay praised the action, saying the vote added momentum to similar proposals throughout California. Already, bans have been approved in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.

"The Santa Monica council's leadership today shows that local governments are going to address this critical issue despite threats from industry and state inaction," said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay in 2011. "The plastics industry knows the writing is on the wall."

Santa Monica had first planned to hear the proposed ban in 2009, but an industry group's threat of a lawsuit prompted the city to conduct an environmental review of the ordinance.

 

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