Plastic bags may soon go the way of the dinosaur in Long Beach. The City Council is expected to approve a ban on the distribution of the bags at stores Tuesday, several months after voting to have the City Attorney’s Office draft the law.

The ordinance is based on one that is going into effect this year for unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Long Beach had to draft an addendum to the county’s environmental impact report on the ban to consider additional local impacts before moving forward.

Under the ban, the distribution of plastic bags would be prohibited at most grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, supermarkets, farmers markets and other retail stores that sell food and similar items. It would affect about 315 stores citywide.

Stores that want to offer recyclable paper bags would be required to charge 10 cents per bag under the law. Under state law, stores are already required to sell reusable grocery bags.

The ordinance would go into effect Aug. 1 for large stores, which is one month after the county’s law goes into effect. The council pushed the date back to give stores more time to comply.

Smaller stores and farmers markets will have until Jan. 1 to do away with plastic bags.

In approving the law, the council would join a growing number of elected officials around the country who are trying to limit the use of plastic bags to reduce their environmental impact. The bags often end up in rivers, streams and oceans, damaging wildlife.

Opponents such as the American Chemistry Council, a trade association representing chemical and plastics manufacturers, have said that education and recycling programs are a better solution. They said that banning plastic bags has little environmental impact because the manufacture of paper bags uses more resources.

The city’s environmental study concluded that there would be no significant adverse environmental impacts from changing bag use, but the county’s study and the city’s addendum raised some questions about the effect of prohibiting plastic bags.

It appears likely to depend on how many people would switch to reusable bags and how many simply use paper bags.

One impact raised by the study included the potential for more truck trips – up to six more per day in Long Beach – to be required to deliver paper bags and reusable bags, which take up more space.

Another issue is the potential to increase the amount of solid waste in landfills, though that impact is debatable. One analysis for the environmental report showed that the switch from plastic to paper bags could reduce Long Beach’s waste by up to five tons per day, but another analysis found that the waste could increase by up to 15 tons daily.

For council members who supported creating the ordinance in December – six of the nine voted in favor – the potential environmental benefit of keeping bags out of waterways may be less easily quantifiable, but is considered well worth it.

paul.eakins@presstelegram, 562-499-1278

Want to go?

What: Long Beach City Council meeting

When: 5 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Council Chamber, City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.

Watch: Televised live on Charter Communications Channel 3, FiOS Channel 21 or


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