LA without plastic bags: a frontline report

January 21st, 2014 | by K Kaufmann | Comments

As noted in a previous blog post, I was briefly in Los Angeles on Saturday for an art exhibit — a trip that also included a quick stop at a nearby Ralphs to pick up a soda and snack for the drive back to Palm Springs.

Arriving at a self-checkout station with my Diet Coke, yogurt and banana, I was momentarily disoriented to find the shelf where one puts ones’ purchases after scanning them totally bare — not a plastic bag in sight.

It took a minute of looking around, and seeing no plastic bags at any other checkout station, for the reality to penetrate. LA’s plastic bag ordinance went into effect Jan. 1.  Single-use plastic bags are banned at large grocery stores, and paper bags will cost 10 cents. Smaller corner markets and stores have an extra six months; the ban will go into effect for them July 1.

I am happy to report that so far, Angelenos seem to be holding up remarkably well. The end of civilization, at least as the term is understood in Los Angeles,  did not appear imminent. Rioting had not broken out in the grocery aisles or elsewhere, nor were shifty characters skulking around outside grocery stores selling blackmarket plastic bags.

Rather, it seemed very much business as usual, just without plastic bags. People were stocking up on their groceries, with reusable bags in tow or paying a little extra for paper.

If I had been in the Coachella Valley, I probably would have thrown my few items into a plastic bag for the short walk to my car. Instead, I picked them up and carried them out of the store. I had a couple reusable bags in my car, but hadn’t retrieved one before shopping.

I am thinking I am like many valley residents who may experience mixed emotions when considering  the current debate over a region-wide plastic bag ban which the Coachella Valley Association of Governments has in the works. The Indian Wells City Council has already signaled it would not support such an initiative.

I know plastic bags are a blight on our environment, but I don’t always remember my reusables and occasionally appreciate the convenience of plastic.

But could I and everyone else live without plastic bags? I know many people in the valley remember the time before plastic bags became a ubiquitous part of our daily lives.

And even for those who don’t, based on my experience in LA, I am confident we would all adjust very nicely and probably faster than we might think.

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