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Long Beach passes plastic bag ban

The council members of Long Beach voted unanimously to ban plastic bags beginning Aug. 1 for all major stores and Jan. 1 for smaller retail stores.

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Long Beach is the twelfth city in California to pass a plastic bag ordinance, preceded by San Francisco and Malibu among other California cities.

Ideally, the objective of the measure is to reduce waste and litter caused by the non-degradable plastic bags. Several residents expressed enthusiasm for the ban because it draws attention to environmental concerns like protecting wildlife and preserving clean waters.

“People need to realize that [plastic bags] are not something you can just easily throw away,” Shari Allen of Long Beach said. “I think one of the biggest problems that we have as a coastal city is we have one of the largest beaches near us. There is so much trash that gets caught.”

Without single-use plastic bags, shoppers have resorted to using reusable plastic and cloth canvas bags to carry their merchandise.

“I don’t think that this [plastic bag ban] is an impediment to shoppers. If they really need paper bags, [stores] have them for ten cents each. They also sell the canvas bags for only about 50 cents,” Allen said.

As a result of the the ban, Heal the Bay, a non-profit environmental preservation group working in many areas of Southern California, took the opportunity to spread ecological awareness by passing out reusable canvas bags to consumers in Long Beach stores such as Albertsons.

Kirsten James, the water quality director at Heal the Bay, voiced satisfaction over the plastic bag ban, which her organization has advocated since 2007. She reiterated the dangers of using plastic bags especially in coastal cities such as Long Beach.

“The main reason why we support [this ban] is at every annual beach clean-up, the most commonly collected items are single-use plastic bags. […] When we are driving down the street, we see plastic bags caught in trees or just blowing down the sidewalk,” James said through a telephone interview. “The biggest problem about plastic bags is that they are carried easily by the wind and they float everywhere.”

Contrarily, some consumers expressed mixed feelings over whether the ban would have effective results on the coastal environment or not.

“The environment will only be affected in Long Beach. If we ban smokestacks but Bellflower doesn’t, nothing will happen and nothing is affected,” Brian Hanson of Long Beach said.

James and other residents, however, have high hopes for the ban to be enacted throughout the rest of California.

“Hopefully we can see some results after some time […and] other cities will follow along,” James said. “Santa Monica is starting on September 1 and [the city of] Los Angeles just passed a notion to look into the idea. But the ideal solution is to pass a state-wide policy.”

Meanwhile, though few residents outside of Long Beach do not deny the growing trend of plastic bag bans, they conveyed dissatisfaction over the inconvenience that would be brought along as well.

“I have been using plastic bags my entire life. I would be very angry at first, and I would go to stores that have plastic bags,” said Anna Loera of Lakewood. “But if the ban came to cities all around me like Lakewood or Hawaiian Gardens, I guess I have no other choice but to finally buy those canvas bags.”

Gracee Kim

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