Santa Monica city officials announced their commitment to protecting Southern California beaches and the Pacific Ocean from plastic marine debris by moving ahead with plans to ban single use plastic bags if AB 1998, the Single-Use Bag Reduction Act, does not pass the State’s Legislature. Santa Monica joined with leaders in Los Angeles County and Manhattan Beach, who made similar announcements this week.
AB 1998, authored by local Assembly member Julia Brownley, has already been approved by the state Assembly. It is expected to be voted upon before the end of August in the California Senate. It would ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags and allow for 40 percent post-consumer content recycled content paper bags to be sold at cost at supermarkets, large retail pharmacies and foodmarts.
Santa Monica’s City Council is scheduled to consider a proposed ordinance on October 12 if the state does not impose a ban. The Santa Monica ordinance would prohibit all retail establishments within city limits from providing single-use plastic carry out bags to customers, and create a Green Fee for each paper bag distributed by grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies in the city. It exempts restaurants from the ban, allowing them to provide plastic bags for take-out food. The ordinance is meant to significantly reduce the environmental impacts related to single-use plastic and paper carry out bags, and to promote a major shift towards reusable bags.
According to Dean Kubani, director of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, City staff will complete a report on the proposed ordinance and recommend a level for the Green Fee by mid-September. Staff is scheduled to present the final environmental documents and draft ordinance language to the City Council on October 12.
“The City Council has given clear direction on this issue,” Kubani said. “They are concerned about the impacts on our neighborhoods, beaches and oceans from trash, and the costs to dispose of plastic debris.”
The City participated in the development of a master environmental assessment (MEA) on single-use bags with other jurisdictions in California, including Los Angeles County, Marin County, San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond, and Pasadena. That document assesses the impacts of the ban and has enabled participants to quickly move ahead with the adoption of bag bans.
“Single-use plastic bags are a burden to our oceans, our beaches, our economy, and the cleanliness of our city,” said City Council member Terry O’Day. “Other communities have proven that eliminating plastic bags is sensible. Sacramento should pass AB 1998, and the Governor should sign it, but if that doesn’t happen, Santa Monica will move ahead with its ban.”
Mark Gold, Executive Director of Heal the Bay, whose organization has long sought to eliminate plastic debris, said “A growing list of counties and cities are moving ahead with bans on single-use plastic bags, and California should show its leadership on curbing plastic pollution. AB 1998 is a common-sense solution to this critical pollution issue and would prevent a patchwork of ordinances and compliance issues for retailers.”
-Report from the City of Santa Monica