LA's New Plastic Bag Ban Implemented With Some Success, Some Confusion

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A rack of cream-colored canvas bags greeted shoppers Thursday at the checkout line at North Hollywood's Fresh & Easy, a reminder of the city's new plastic bag ban. Shoppers could use their own bag, buy a canvas sack or plunk down 10 cents for each paper bag.

"It was kind of a shock," said Romulo Pedroza, describing his reaction at the lack of plastic bags at the counter. Not wanting to pay for a disposable paper bag, the North Hollywood resident bought the $2.79 canvas bag.

One day after Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to ban plastic bags, shoppers no longer heard the familiar refrain: Paper or plastic? Some locals adjusted, while others were left confused about the new law.

And some shoppers, like Jerry Koren, opted to go bagless. Exiting the Fresh & Easy, Koren awkwardly juggled a container of strawberries, a yogurt tub and granola bag in his hands. "I don't want to pay 10 cents for a bag," Koren said.

With its new ban, Los Angeles joins a list of 90 cities and counties in the state, including unincorporated Los Angeles County, with similar laws over plastic bags.

The Los Angeles City Council passed the ban in June, citing worries about the financial and environmental impacts of the bags. Supporters of the law say the bags litter streets and clog up storm drains in the city, and that the city spends millions cleaning up the pesky sacks.

The new law applies not only to grocery stores, but big-box stores, like Target and Wal-Mart, that carry groceries and at locations larger than 10,000 square feet or with annual sales of more than $2 million. Stores that don't comply can be fined up to $100-$500, depending on the number of citations. By July 1, the ban will extend to smaller stores such as minimarts.

Local politicians like Councilman Tom LaBonge, have been popping up at grocery stores in the past week to remind shoppers about the new law.

At the Fresh & Easy, store manager Kevin Beltran said that about 50 percent of the customers had walked in Thursday carrying their own bags.

Down the street at the North Hollywood Target, plastic bags were still in use, with clerks stuffing food items like soy milk into the plastic sacks. Target employee Michael Arrieta said he was told by his managers that the store was going to stop using the bags this week, but then the bags never went away.

"There's a lot of confusion," he said. A message left for the manager was not returned.

More information about the bag ban is available from the city at http://lacitybag.com/

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