On May 23, 2012, Los Angeles became the nation’s largest city to ban plastic bags at grocery stores. The City Council voted 13-1 to ban single-use plastic bags later this year after completing an EIR and adopting an ordinance. Forty-eight other cities in the state already have similar bans; San Francisco’s extends to pharmacies, restaurants, and small retailers. Large retailers in L.A. will have six months to phase out plastic bags (small retailers will have one year), after which they will provide free paper bags for six months. After that, retailers will charge ten cents per bag.
The city currently goes through 2.7 billion single-use plastic bags every year. Environmentalists supporting the ordinance noted that plastic bag waste contributes to ocean pollution, landfill expansion, littered streets, and clogged waterways. Lobbyists and union employees opposing the ban argued that it would result in job loss and shift jobs overseas. A version of the law that was passed in 2010, which covered the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, reduced plastic bag use in those areas by an estimated 94 percent.