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City hesitant to regulate plastic bags

New restrictions for unincorporated areas unlikely to influence city's green agenda.

November 25, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

Despite a recent vote by L.A. County Supervisors to prohibit the use of disposable plastic shopping bags in unincorporated areas such as La Crescenta, officials in La Cañada Flintridge aren't in any hurry to follow with regulations of their own.

"I haven't heard a peep from anybody in town in terms of desire to enact such an ordinance," said Mayor Donald Voss, echoing others at City Hall who say a similar government action doesn't currently appear to be needed here, though minds aren't necessarily closed to the issue.

While plastic bags are often discussed as a blight issue in other, more urbanized areas — in some places they litter the streets, clog storm drains and ultimately head to landfills after clogging up sorting machines at city recycling centers — city officials say responsible use and reuse has kept them from becoming a problem here.

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"Most of our residents have a high level of awareness. We don't have issues with plastic bags littering our streets, and our waste haulers and street sweepers haven't expressed concern about these bags in our waste stream," said Mary Goytia Strauss, senior management analyst for the city.

The Nov. 16 ordinance for unincorporated areas requires a number of large supermarkets and pharmacies to stop providing disposable plastic bags in July and extend the ban to smaller stores by January 2012.

Shoppers who ask for disposable paper bags instead of relying on reusable ones would have to pay a 10-cent surcharge per paper bag at the point of purchase.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who represents Foothill communities, voted against the ban in a three-to-one decision for which Supervisor Don Knabe was absent.

"I voted 'no' on the ban based on the facts that it is not sound public policy, and it also only increases costs and regulations on the 1.5 million residents and the businesses residing in the county's unincorporated areas — and not the county's 88 cities," Antonovich wrote in a statement about the ban.

"At a time of economic uncertainty and with large numbers of businesses leaving our state, this is not the appropriate time in our efforts to clean up the environment to impose additional regulations on businesses," he continued.

The California Grocers Association, which represents 6,000 food stores and, along with Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental group based in Santa Monica, helped lead an effort earlier this year to impose a similar ban statewide, supported the new county regulations.

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