LA Bans Plastic Bags, Charges for Paper
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a bill that not only bans single-use plastic bags in food stores but also imposes a 10-cent charge for each paper bag.
And it's a move that could have unexpected, even dangerous side effects.
The ban on plastic in stores that sell perishable foods would take effect in January for large stores and in July 2014 for smaller stores.
"We've seen plastic bags clogging our gutters, polluting our rivers and piling up on our beaches," Council Member Jose Huizar said in a statement.
"The time for the City of Los Angeles to take action to protect our environment is now."
Nearly 2 billion single-use plastic bags are distributed in Los Angeles annually, CBS News Los Angeles reported.
Los Angeles is the largest U.S. city to ban plastic bags.
But many shoppers will choose to rely on reusable grocery bags to avoid the 10-cent charge for a paper bag. And that could lead to an increase in foodborne illnesses, emergency room visits, and even deaths, researchers say.
As the Insider Report disclosed in January, the danger comes because reusable bags are breeding grounds for E. coli and other harmful bacteria.
"If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags," according to a report from Jonathan Klick, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, and Joshua D. Wright, a professor at the George Mason University School of Law and Department of Economics.
"Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death."
Tests of randomly selected reusable grocery bags found coliform bacteria in more than half of them, the Insider Report noted.
Yet the ban may not have a major impact on litter in Los Angeles. An audit in San Francisco, which banned the bags in 2007, showed that they account for less than 3 percent of the city's litter.
Many plastic bags are recycled, or used as trash liners or doggie litter bags.