The Tipping Point for Plastic Bags

tipping point plastic bags Los Angeles Malcolm Gladwell ordinance Alex Padilla

 “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

― Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

We know that billions of single-use plastic bags are used in Los Angeles every year, and that 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.

Los Angeles, we are at a tipping point when it comes to tackling the scourge of plastic bag pollution.

On May 23, 2012, the Los Angeles City Council voted to move forward with drafting an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags and place a charge on paper bags at grocery stores and select other retailers throughout the City. The Bureau of Sanitation recently released its draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF) for public review and comment; comments are due on March 11, 2013. It is our hope that the City Council will vote on the ordinance later this spring.

If adopted, Los Angeles will be the largest city in the United States to approve a single-use bag ordinance, and its passage will send a clear message to the rest of the state (and country) that addressing plastic bag waste (and by implication, our disposable consumer culture) is an idea whose time has come.

In fact, once passed, Los Angeles will join the company of 65 California counties and cities that have banned plastic bags, including many jurisdictions in SoCal. And by the looks of it, that number is set to grow; City Councils in Sacramento, Culver City and Huntington Beach, among others, are currently engaged in discussions about whether to enact their own single-use bag ordinances. The idea of reducing the economic waste and environmental impacts associated with single-use bag litter has even spread to the California statehouse where State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and State Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) have introduced bag bills.

But first we have to reach the tipping point by passing the Los Angeles bag ordinance. Stay tuned for more information about the City Council's final vote later this spring and how you can get involved! Follow us on Twitter to stay-up-to-date.

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Stay engaged with Heal the Bay as we head toward the finish line in Los Angeles.