A ban on plastic bags will be a major step in reducing economic waste and environmental impacts. The City of Los Angeles has the opportunity to become a true leader in preventing the proliferation of plastic pollution and save businesses and consumers money.
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I am writing to express my support for the adoption of a comprehensive single-use carryout bag ordinance by the City of Los Angeles that addresses both plastic (including compostable plastic) and paper single-use bags.
Billions of single-use plastic bags are used in Los Angeles every year. Despite both voluntary and statewide efforts to implement recycling programs, the statewide recycling rate for plastic bags remains around five percent; 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.
Marine plastic pollution imposes substantial costs on taxpayers and local governments through cleanup efforts and lost tourism revenue. A 2012 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found California’s coastal cities and counties spend about $420 million each year to combat litter and curtail marine debris. Single-use plastic bags have been a large contributor to marine debris on our beaches and inland creeks. For example, volunteers participating in the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup in California recovered 64,085 plastic bags during the one day event. Plastic debris, including plastic bags, lasts for hundreds of years in our environment and may never biodegrade in the ocean. As a result, it poses a persistent threat to wildlife. A 2012 study by the Convention on Biological Diversity found that 663 marine species have been impacted by marine plastic litter through entanglement and ingestion.
Similar single-use bag ordinances have changed consumer behavior and have resulted in an increased use of reusable bags, a more sustainable alternative to single-use bags. For example, Los Angeles County announced that its ordinance, which became fully effective in 2012, has resulted in a 94% reduction in overall single-use bag usage (both plastic and paper).
A ban on plastic bags coupled with a fee on paper bags will be a major step in reducing the economic waste and environmental impacts that single-use bags create. The City of Los Angeles has the opportunity to join other local jurisdictions like the County of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena and Glendale and become a true leader in preventing the proliferation of plastic pollution in our communities, and at the same time, save businesses and consumers money. For these reasons we urge you to lead the effort to finalize a single-use bag ordinance for the City of Los Angeles.
Thank you for your leadership on this critical environmental issue.