By Katta Hules
The Arcadia City Council has voted to introduce a Plastic Bag Ban. The ban, championed by Councilmember Tom Beck would prohibit plastic bags from being distributed by stores like Vons and 7-Eleven but would allow them to offer paper bags for 10 cents. “I’m embarrassed that we haven’t banned single use plastic bags,” Beck said.
Beck first proposed the ban back in 2014 when the state was considering its own legislation restricting plastic bag use. At that time, the council voted to let the state deal with the problem. Governor Jerry Brown signed the ban into law but opponents gathered enough signatures to put a referendum on it, pushing the decision to the voters this November. Should the law pass, the state’s ban, which is the model for Arcadia’s, will take precedence.
This was a sticking point in the council’s discussion on the ban. “I just don’t know what is to be gained other than making a statement … we’re jumping the gun by seven months and I think we can wait for the statewide election,” Mayor Pro Tem Roger Chandler said. Councilmember Sho Tay agreed, saying, “Let the people decide.”
Three residents voiced other concerns with the proposed ban during the public comments section. Gail Marshall raised the issue of E. coli and salmonella contamination in dirty reusable bags among various other issues, calling the plastic bag ban trend an “eco-fad.” She proposed having the government make plastic bag and take-out container manufacturers produce biodegradable products instead. According to the government food safety website, (www.foodsafety.gov) it is possible for such bacteria to grow if the bags are not washed between uses and spills from items like raw meat are left untended to. “This idea of germs growing in cloth bags is not something that is made up. If they are kept in your trunk where it is hot [or] if you put vegetables or meat in them, you would be amazed what will show up under a microscope,” said Mayor Pro Tem Chandler.
Dean Raydell, the next speaker, expressed disapproval with the council for not educating the public more about the proposed ban. He cited the March 9 workshop on the subject, which was attended by “only a handful of residents.” He suggested holding more workshops and postponing the ban until the council could get more input from Arcadian voters. The final speaker was Bill Barrett who also opposed the ban, saying the plastic bags were not “single use” but had a multitude of uses and were recyclable.
“Thirteen billion plastic bags are discarded every year,” said Beck. He went on to point out 147 cities and counties in California as well as countries such as Bangladesh and Rwanda have banned plastic bags. He cited San Jose as an example, saying the city saw an 89 percent decrease of bags in their storm drains, 59 percent less in their streets, and 60 percent less in their waterways after enacting their own ban.
“California spends $25 million dollars a year to landfill plastic bag waste,” Beck said. He also estimated 25 percent of the litter in the Los Angeles River was plastic bags. “We need to be more progressive in protecting our environment.”
Mayor Gary Kovacic pointed to the city staff report where Waste Management, the company handling Arcadia’s refuse, said it has to unplug their machinery a minimum of “ten times a day due to plastic bags.”
Should the ban be passed it would be implemented in two stages. The first would go into effect June 7 and restrict bags at “large self-service retail stores” like Vons or Albertson’s according to the staff report. The second would become effective Jan. 1 of next year and cover “[a]ny drug store, pharmacy, supermarket, grocery store, convenience food store, food mart,” such as 7-Eleven. It is estimated 36 businesses will be affected. Restaurants and fast food establishments would be exempt from the ban.
The ban was approved for introduction with Beck, Mayor Kovacic and Councilmember Mickey Segal in favor, and Tay and Chandler against. Segal annotated his vote by saying, “In an effort to open a door to a new council who will be forced to make the decision, in an effort to give one of the gentlemen that spoke two more people’s opinion about whether this should happen or not, I’m going to vote yes and push it on to the next council.”
The next council will be sworn in at next Tuesday with a 6 p.m. reception honoring the election’s winners before the 7 p.m. council meeting.