City Says Long Beach Retailers In Compliance With Plastic Bag Ban

Single-Use Carryout Bag Ban Bill Circulating California Legislature

By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer

July 17, 2012 – The transition to comply with the City of Long Beach ordinance banning single-use, plastic carryout bags has been smooth for both large and small retailers that offer food items, according to Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau (ESB) Manager Jim Kuhl.

“The compliance has been really good,” Kuhl said. “We’re hearing that some stores not covered by the ban have decided to eliminate plastic bags and or charge for paper bags. We’ve heard of a few of the non-food retailers doing this.” One example, Kuhl said, is Orchard Supply Hardware, which he said has eliminated plastic bags from its stores in Long Beach. “What we’re hearing from some of the corporate people, for stores that are not covered by the ban, if a jurisdiction implements a ban their corporate policy is to follow it, even if it’s not mandated,” he said.

The City of Long Beach enacted Ordinance No. ORD-11-0009 to ban plastic bags citywide in two phases. The first phase, effective August 1, 2011, applies to large food retailers who have gross annual sales of $2 million or more, or have at least 10,000 square feet of retail space. The second phase impacts smaller grocery stores, pharmacies, food marts and convenience stores in Long Beach, and went into effect this year on January 1.

A handful of residents have complained about retailers not in compliance, Kuhl said, but he found only one to be valid. “A small retailer was actually selling their plastic bags to get rid of their stock,” he said. The ESB is following up on a store in town that has been charging more than the mandated price of 10 cents per paper bag. “We talked to the county about that, and they’ve had a few instances of that also,” he said. “Generally it’s gone very smoothly without many problems.”

Salvador Rios, store manager of Superior Super Warehouse at 5450 Cherry Ave., said his store has been successful in educating its shoppers about the plastic bag ban. While they took down the original signs about the ban, the store does have decals posted to let customers know that for each $20 spent they can get a free reusable bag.

“I think in the beginning it was a transition, but now I think it’s automatic,” he said. “I think everybody knows that there are no more bags here in Long Beach, and they have pretty much adjusted to shopping without the plastic bags.”

Tim Mitchell, store director at the Ralphs at Marina Pacifica, said he thinks the ban has been very successful. “About a month before the bag ban started, we put up signs at the front door, decals at the front door, decals at the register and handed out a flyer in everyone’s order when we bagged their orders,” he said. “We are no longer doing that. Ninety-nine percent of the customers know about it. Very rarely does a customer come through and not know about the bag ban.”

Mitchell said about 80 percent of his store’s customers bring in their own reusable bags, which has decreased the need for carrying bulk stock of reusable bags and paper bags significantly.

Businesses impacted by the plastic bag ban are checked for compliance in two ways, Kuhl said. One is through the annual inspections by the Long Beach Health Department, and the other is inspection by the ESB on a complaint basis. “What we’re hearing, too, is that people are actually taking their plastic bags into the store and reusing them,” Kuhl said. “Sometimes the public will see that and think the business is distributing plastic bags. In reality, it is just people reusing the plastic bags they’ve received someplace else.”

A new bill is being circulated in the California Legislature to again try banning the single-use plastic bags statewide. Assembly Bill 298, authored by Assemblymember Julia Brownley, is the latest attempt by Brownley to prohibit stores from distributing plastic bags and force retailers to charge for paper bags. The bill is very similar to the law enacted in Los Angeles County, according to Kuhl. “Our only interest in the bill at this point would be that it didn’t preempt the current ordinance, because it wouldn’t take effect until January 2014,” he said. “We wouldn’t want it to preempt what we have in place.”

For more information about the city’s plastic bag ban, visit www.litterfreelb.com.