Laguna Beach has begun its ban on plastic bags.  It is the first city in the county to outlaw the use of plastic bags at retail shops.  The measure was adopted by the city last year in February and is just now going into effect.  Nearby city of Dana Point will have a similar ban that takes effect in April

About the Ban

The ordinance prohibits the use and distribution of all types of plastic at retails stores in Laguna Beach.  It does not include restaurants or other eateries.  Some grocery stores as well as pharmacies will offer recycled paper bags in place of the banned plastic bags, for a fee of ten cents per bag.  The money will be kept by the store.  This includes markets, convenience stores, gas stations and liquor stores

The fee for the paper bags is intended to discourage shoppers from purchasing them.  Instead the hope is that shoppers will switch to the more eco-friendly reusable shopping bags.  However, state law dictates that prescription medications be dispensed to consumers in paper bags, and that will not be affected by the new ban

Local Reactions

Violations come at a cost.  First time violators will be fined $100.  The second offense raises the fee to $200.  Any subsequent violations will cost $500

As the ban goes into effect, many shopkeepers had a positive attitude.  While it might take some time to habitualize the use of reusable bags, many think it is a step in the right direction.  It helps to increase environmental awareness among the general population

There are some businesses in Laguna Beach that banned plastic bags, even before the city ordinance took effect.  Whole Foods Market already eliminated the use of plastic bags, emphasizing the importance of sustainability

Many have been concerned about the inability of plastic bags to biodegrade in landfills.  In fact, there is an accumulation of garbage, particularly plastic garbage, in the Pacific Ocean known as the “Great Garbage Patch”.  Instead of biodegrading, plastic photodegrades, which means that it breaks down into smaller pieces that can then make their way into the food chain

While the ordinance has many supporters, it also has its fair share of detractors.  The American Progressive Bag Alliance is an organization that represents the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling sector – they are against the ban.  They believe that consumers will take a financial hit and that it will push them towards less desirable options.  They believe that paper bags are less environmentally sound by using more energy to manufacture and emitting more greenhouse gases than plastic bags.  They can’t be recycled and they are predominately imported from China

This organization has released data that states that reusable bags have been found to contain dangerous bacteria that can spread disease.  They also stated that 90 percent of Americans reuse their plastic bags, and that cloth bags must be used 131 times to ensure that their footprint is less than that of a plastic bag, according to studies conducted in the UK.  And they stated that plastic bag production only uses four percent of water used in paper bag production and that seven times the number of trucks are needed to transport paper bags.