LOS ANGELES - The City Council voted Wednesday to ban plastic bags and impose a fee for paper bags at grocery stores, a move that backers said would improve the region's environment, save taxpayers money on trash cleanup and promote sustainability.
The council's 13-1 vote orders the Bureau of Sanitation to complete an environmental review of the ban and an ordinance to enact it in four months.
Once in effect, Los Angeles will be the largest city in the nation to ban plastic bags.
The council approved a slightly watered-down version of the ban first proposed by Councilman Paul Koretz and approved by the Board of Public Works, a plan that would have included a ban on paper bags.
Council members Jose Huizar and Eric Garcetti offered the compromise proposal to model the city's program after bag bans in Long Beach, Calabasas, Santa Monica, unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and Pasadena.
The ban will be phased in for about 7,500 grocery stores in the city.
Large grocers will have a six-month grace period once the ordinance is enacted to phase out plastic bags.
Smaller grocers will have a year, and all grocers will be required to charge a 10-cent fee for paper bags one year after the ordinance takes effect. Huizar and Garcetti's plan also calls for the Bureau of Sanitation to report back to the City Council after two years to discuss how the ban is going and whether to strengthen it with a complete ban on single-use paper bags.
"I believe today will be a historic tipping point towards an eventual elimination of paper and plastic bags throughout the world," Koretz said, adding that it would send a signal to state lawmakers to approve a statewide ban.
Members of environmental groups including Heal the Bay, Sierra Club and Environment California packed the council chamber to support the ban, which was also supported by the California Grocers Association.
Plastic bag manufacturers, including CrownPoly, a plastic bag maker based in Huntington Park, turned out to oppose the ban.
A spokeswoman for the American Progressive Bag Alliance said it would threaten jobs at three local plastic bag manufacturers in Los Angeles County.
City Council members challenged that notion, saying the companies produce products other than plastic bags and sell the vast majority of their plastic bags outside of Los Angeles.
Councilman Bernard Parks, the council's lone opposing vote, raised concerns about potential public health risks from cross contamination of raw meats and other groceries in re-usable bags that are not cleaned.