LA Settles into the Plastic Bag Ban

In many ways, it could have been any Saturday afternoon at the supermarket. Angelenos in workout wear hustled in and out of the automatic doors carrying bags of groceries to restock the fridge for the week ahead. But January 4 was different. Three days earlier, Los Angeles became the largest city in the U.S. to ban plastic bags from supermarkets and box stores that sell groceries. Shoppers would now need to bring their own reusable bags or purchase recyclable paper bags for 10¢ apiece. 

We’re naturally curious, so we stopped by a few city supermarkets to see how LA residents were adapting to the change.

Hollywood resident Tammy Anderson had been out of town for the past three weeks and was caught by surprise as she walked into Ralphs. “Ugh, I didn’t know about it,” she said. “I usually bring my own bags—if I remember them.” Ann Riordan also forgot her bags, so she begrudgingly drove all the way home to get them. “They were sitting on my dining room table,” she explained, a bit peeved. “I didn’t want to pay 10¢, so I had to go back.”

The 10¢ charge was a sore spot for many shoppers. Some like Ann wanted to know where the money was going—it goes back to the stores for use in complying with the ban—while others took the added cost as inspiration to create a new habit. “I don’t particularly like paying 10¢,” said Mid-City resident Ramona Hilton. “But maybe it will help me remember my bags.”

 Most residents we spoke to, however, saw these early days as growing pains. “Sure it’s an inconvenience,” said Obie Jessie, “but environmentally, it’s a good move.” He’s right. In California, nearly 20 billion single-use plastic carryout bags are used each year. Most of those end up in landfills or become litter that harms marine habitats and wildlife.

 For his part, Obie is thinking of the bag ban as a chance to show a little flare. “Maybe I’ll get some really cool bags. If they’re going to be with me all the time, they should represent.”

Tell us how the plastic bag ban has been for you. What’s your secret trick for remembering your bags?

 p.s. Want to offset those 10¢ charges? Upload a photo of your reusable bags on lacitybag.com and you could win $50!

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