Los Angeles plastic bag ban hits small CSUN stores July 1

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Adrienne Landes, 27, cinema and television arts major, bags items for Markala Bishop, 18, public health major, at The Edge store at CSUN on Wednesday. Photo credit: Alex Vejar / Daily Sundial

For now, CSUN has avoided the recent single-use plastic bag ban which went into effect on Jan. 1 in Los Angeles, which affects large grocery, pharmacy, retail and convenience stores that have $2 million or more in yearly sales.

Small retail, grocery, and convenience stores under the $2 million revenue mark, such as the ones located on campus, will be hit with the ban on July 1. Restaurants and stores on campus serving food are exempted from the ban.

Although the campus stores were not required to eliminate the plastic bags at the start of 2014, some students acknowledge the environmental benefits of forgoing a bag altogether, after confronting the changes recently made while shopping at area grocery stores.

“I have to remind myself to bring a reusable bag because they take forever to biodegrade,” said Jessica Cisneros, junior sociology major. She said she has a number of bags waiting for use in the trunk of her car.

Of the 90 cities and counties in California, L.A. is the largest city to ban plastic bags. It is also the largest city in the United States to institute such a ban.

Some establishments are exempt from the new law, including restaurants, dry cleaning shops and hardware stores.

Retail stores that don’t sell perishable groceries, such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears are also not affected by the ban, according to the city’s website.

Exemptions also include pharmacy bags, and produce bags used for bagging vegetables, fruit and meat.

Stores must provide reusable bags for purchase and charge a 10-cent fee on single-use paper bags that are made of at least 40 percent recycled materials. Stores must also provide free bags to customers who are participants of California special programs, such as Women, Infants and Children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, programs that offer assistance to low-income individuals and families, according to the new law.

Gurdeep Bhogal, freshman biology major, would rather use the plastic bags and is upset he is being charged for the paper ones.

“It’s stupid they are charging 10 cents [for a] bag I can’t use when the plastic ones come in handy,” Bhogal said.

Joe Leyva, recent CSUN graduate and a membership service supervisor at the SRC, said he would just pay the paper bag fee and use them for trash containers.

“I kind of got used to it already and will carry what I need without a bag and pay 10 cents for the paper ones,” Leyva said. “I don’t really mind.”

The campus bookstore is exempt from the ban because it does not sell perishable groceries, but is still encouraging students to use less plastic bags.

“[Follett, the bookstore operator], continues to support the reduction of plastic bag use by not automatically bagging all items,” said Amy Berger, director of the Matador Bookstore. “Instead, the cashiers are trained to ask shoppers if they would like a bag, primarily when they are purchasing heavy textbooks, on rainy days or when their purchase includes mixed products.”

The bookstore does not currently offer reusable bags for sale because of past poor sales.

“Our bag use has dropped by about half over the last few years, and I anticipate it will continue to go down as people become more accustomed to carrying their own reusable bags,” Berger said.

Berger said the bookstore is looking into carrying a low-cost, reusable bag and expects the store to have reusable bags in place later in the spring.

Danielle Brazile, senior sociology major, was upset when given a plastic bag for her bookstore purchases without asking for one.

“I think it is stupid that we have to pay for the bags,” Brazile said. “We’re shopping there so they should be free.”

Mike Lennon, associate director of retail operations at the University Corporation at CSUN, oversees the convenience stores on campus. He said they are exempt from the bag ban, but are still attempting to provide other options for students.

“Our supplier is looking for alternatives to the plastic bags that are suitable for customers,” Lennon said. He also said the alternative bags should be available by March.

Freddie Pinuelas, general manager at El Pollo Loco on campus, said the restaurant will continue to use plastic bags because they are not affected by the law.

“The interesting thing is they did not discuss any change about the bags at our last meeting, just product changes,” Pinuelas said.

Kirsten James, science and policy director at Heal the Bay, said it took over five years of work to get the ban passed over the opposition of the plastics industry.

“Outreach to the community was important in talking about the environmental and economic benefits, by reducing urban blight and saving money on clean-up resources,” James said.

Heal the Bay, a local environmental advocacy group, helped to get the ban in place by pressuring and educating both the L.A. City Council and the public, and is an official partner for the program, James said.

Jinderpal Bhandal, program manager of Los Angeles’ single-use carryout bag ordinance at the Bureau of Sanitation, said he has received only about 10 complaints as of Jan. 13 because of stores charging people on public assistance, who are exempted from the law, for paper and plastic bags.

Bhandal said the response has been positive and that a number of people who have called the city have said they are glad they no longer have to take plastic bags home.

The law will help save millions of barrels of oil over time. Non-biodegradable plastic takes 1,000 or more years to break down. When it does, it is into toxic or small pieces that are harmful to wildlife, and is toxic when burned, according to the L.A. City Bag website.

A recent United Nations Environmental Program report estimates approximately 95 percent of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, according to the website.

Further, many of the 19 billion plastic bags Californians receive each year end up in the ocean where wildlife may choke on them or fish can ingest then digest the plastic, adding toxins to its flesh, causing concern for consumers and wildlife in the food chain, according the website.

Berger encouraged students to find an alternative to the plastic bags they will receive with their purchases from the bookstore.

“For now, as students return to campus, I would remind them that they are always welcome to bring their own reusable bags when they shop at the Matador Bookstore,” Berger said.