The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a ban on plastic grocery bags in unincorporated areas of the county. “No store shall provide to any customers a plastic carryout bag”. That’s what the official measure reads.

Image by Dan4th Nicholas (source: Flickr)

Now how much people live in Los Angeles? According to the Wikipedia page for Los Angeles, the city holds 3,83 million people, while the surrounding urban area of greater Los Angeles extends to an added 14,8 million people. The county is home to 88 incorporated cities and many unincorporated areas. An unincorporated area is a region of land that is not a part of any municipality. To “incorporate” in this context means to form a municipal corporation, a city, town, or village with its own government.

So the plastic bag ban is only valid in unincorporated areas. But I hear you thinking. And yes I know that despite having 88 incorporated cities and towns’, including the state’s most populous, 65 percent of the land in Los Angeles County is unincorporated. But, and this is important, most of the unincorporated parts are only sparsely populated or made up of parks and forests, including the Angeles National Forest.

According to information I found through Wapedia the unincorporated areas hold approximately 1,1 million residents. So roughly I’m down from 15 million to 1 million people who will be affected by the measure. Pretty hard for me to call this “one of the U.S.’s most aggressive environmental measures to date”, like I’m reading all over the Internet.

But let’s move on with the small print of the plastic bag ban. So 1 million people won’t get plastic bags with groceries anymore, right? Well, not really. The measure reads that no store shall provide to any customer a plastic carryout bag EXCEPT bags that are used to hold fruits, vegetables or raw meat. Those items will be exempt from the ban. Also, grocers who do continue to offer plastic bags will not be punished in any way, they will only have to charge their customers 10 dollar cents (0,07 EUR) per bag. The stores will then use those 10 cents to provide paper bags instead of plastic ones and to educate people about using them. Is it just me, or are we still talking about giving away free bags here?

So to sum it up, 1,1 million people in Los Angeles will get paper bags instead of plastic ones, or will pay 10 cents per plastic bag they get. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this really isn’t an aggressive measure, when in fact it’s hardly a measure at all.

Is 10 cents a bag really enough of an incentive to get people off plastic? Or to make them switch to what they really should be using: eco-friendly reusable bags? I seriously doubt it.