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L.A. County says goodbye to plastic grocery bags

California has long been known as leader in “green” practices among the United States – and it continues to lead by example today. As of July 1, a ban on plastic grocery bags will go into effect for unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

County supervisors championed the bag ban as a way to eliminate the eyesore known as the “urban tumbleweed” – a collection of tumbling bags that pollutes landfills and often gets washed out to sea. It’s no exaggeration. Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s a swirling mass of garbage, rife with plastic bags and other debris, and is roughly twice the size of Texas.

Naturally, the bag ban is intended to encourage the use of reusable bags. What makes reusable bags so neat is that everyone “wins” with them. By purchasing a reusable bag, whether or not you live in California, you’re no longer piling onto any urban tumbleweeds or growing garbage patches, which are very harmful to wildlife.

The fact of the matter is that, as much as we could consider reusing or recycling plastic bags, statistically, we just don’t do it for some reason.

Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica environmental group Heal the Bay, said that previous county efforts to promote recycling plastic bags at grocery stores had been a failure.

“You cannot recycle your way out of the plastic bag problem,” Gold said. “The cost of convenience can no longer be at the expense of the environment.”

But Gold may only be partially right. Yes, plastic bags aren’t the answer. However, in the case of reusable bags (paper or cloth), the notion that you’re protecting the environment at the cost of your own convenience simply isn’t true. Reusable bags do many things for you that plastic bags could never do. They’re washable and much sturdier, able to carry much larger loads. They’re customizable and can serve many different purposes; for example, some reusable bags are thermal, customized to carry food and maintain their desired temperatures.

Reusable bags are both greener and more convenient than plastic bags. So we have the ultimate motivation all over the globe to follow L.A. County’s lead. Ban plastic bags and join the reusable bag movement!

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