If you're heading out to the City of Angels anytime soon, remember to pack your reusable bags. The city of Los Angeles just became the largest municipality in the country to ban disposable plastic shopping bags.
According to the LA Times, the city council approved a ban by 13 to 1, forcing retailers to gradually phase out the use of disposable bags over the course of the next 16 months. After the ban is enacted, paper bags will be sold for 10 cents each.
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Environmental groups that pushed for the ban included Heal the Bay and the Plastic Pollution Coalition, both of which are drawing attention to—and trying to solve—the ever-growing problem of plastic in the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge soup of plastic the size of Texas that is floating in the North Pacific, was recently found to be polluted with plastic particles that sank as deep as 100 feet below the ocean surface.
These groups even enlisted A-list Hollywood celebrities, including Julia Roberts, John Cusack, and Edward Norton, to get the ban passed.
Cities in at least seven states have successfully passed plastic-bag bans, and the city of Austin, Texas, recently banned all disposable shopping bags. The state of Alaska and Washington, D.C., have both successfully passed per-use plastic bag fees, and according to the website PlasticBagLaws.org, which tracks bag bans across the U.S., use of plastic bags in D.C. has dropped by 50 percent since the city's fee went into effect in 2010.
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Even if your city hasn't caught up to the bag-ban trend, you can still make disposable bags illegal in your house.
• Load up on reusable bags. Opt for good sturdy bags made from nylon or organic cotton, and try not to rely too heavily on those 50-cent reusable bags at grocery stores. Tests have shown that those cheaper reusable bags may be contaminated with lead.
• Wash them regularly. Toss your reusable bags in the laundry every few times you use them to keep dirt, meat juices, and other gunk and bacteria from contaminating your produce. (Another reason to opt for washable materials like cotton and nylon!)
• Don't forget your produce! Not included in many of these plastic-bag bans, flimsy plastic produce bags can only be reused so many times before they fall apart. Look for reusable produce bags on sites like reuseit.com or make your own from scraps of cloth or an old bedsheet.