Outreach campaign, giveaway launched ahead of plastic bag ban

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"Thank You" plastic bags.

“Thank You” plastic bags.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles city officials today announced an effort to educate Angelenos on the plastic bag ban going into effect at large grocery and drug stores on Jan. 1, and at smaller, mom-and-pop stores six months later.

As part of the “Bring Your Own Bag” campaign, stores will display placards warning shoppers of the impending ban — involving Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons and Wal-Mart, among others — and reminding customers to bring reusable bags when they shop.

Drug stores like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, and convenience stores like 7-Eleven, will also need to stop using plastic bags by Jan. 1.

Customers will be charged 10 cents each for paper bags.

The ban goes into effect July 1 for smaller, independent grocery stores, drug stores and convenience food-marts.

Plastic bags will still be allowed at restaurants and department stores. The thin plastic sacks used for produce and meat are also exempt from the ban.

In addition to the outreach campaign, city leaders today announced “The LA Epic Reusable Bag Giveaway,” a program to make and give out reusable bags in low-income neighborhoods.

A call was put out for sponsors to help fund the giveaway program, which will employ veterans from the group Green Vets LA to sew the bags and Homeboy Industries, an organization that helps at-risk or gang-involved youth, to do the silkscreening. Environmental groups will distribute the bags.

The city also made a pledge to give out 100,000 free reusable bags in each of the 15 City Council districts.

The council approved the ban earlier this year. In June, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed the ban into law, making Los Angeles the most populous city in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags.

The law is similar to one adopted by Los Angeles County. Other cities in California, including San Francisco and Santa Monica, have adopted plastic bag bans.

A statewide ban proposed by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, a former Los Angeles city councilman, was defeated in May.

Activists from environmental organizations such as Heal the Bay say a ban on the non-biodegradable plastic bags will lead to cleaner beaches, storm drains, rivers and other public spaces. Representatives of plastics companies counter that it will cost jobs, while others contend reusable bags are prone to germs and pose a health risk.

The local ban takes effect Jan. 1 for stores that gross more than $2 million a year or are housed in a retail space that is 10,000 square feet or larger. Starting July 1, the ban will include liquor stores, and independent markets that carry limited groceries but have staples such as milk and bread.

Proceeds from the 10-cent charge for recyclable paper bags will be kept by stores and used only to recoup the costs of the bags and comply with the city ban. It also will pay for materials to promote reusable bags.

Stores will be required to file quarterly reports on the number of paper bags given out, how much money the store receives for those bags and efforts to promote reusable bags.

To help ease the transition, the city plans to hand out about 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas. Participants of SNAP, WIC and EBT programs will get reusable bags or recyclable paper bags free-of-charge.

The city currently spends about $2 million annually cleaning up plastic bag litter.

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