Plastic Bag Bans Advance in Laguna Beach and Dana Point

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Laguna Beach and Dana Point may soon be the first cities in Orange County to implement bans on plastic bags at grocery stores and other businesses.

City councils in both towns voted Tuesday night to move toward implementing the bans, with Laguna Beach’s council voting unanimously in approval, according to the Orange County Register.

In Dana Point, the council directed the city staff to change parts of the ordinance and bring it back for a vote, according to City Clerk Kathy Ward.

The bans are strongly supported by environmentalists, who say plastic bags are a major problem along the coast and have lead to the deaths of marine animals. They face resistance, however, from limited-government advocates and some business owners, who say the bans sharply increase costs and infringe on personal freedoms.

From the Register article:

If approved the second time, the Laguna Beach ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1 to allow businesses time to budget and provide alternatives to customers. An exemption would be made for plastic produce bags …

… In Dana Point, Jim Miller, owner of The Coffee Importers at the harbor, opposed the city’s ban, saying complying with it would cost small businesses $1,000 a year. Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce also spoke against the ban.
But Councilman Scott Schoeffel said environmental concerns dovetail with economic prosperity, citing the rise of “green” tourism.

“Our environment is our business,” Schoeffel said.

Representatives of Dana Point’s four luxury hotels said the bag ban would help them market themselves as convention spaces for companies that want to demonstrate environmental stewardship. Those hotels generate nearly a third of the city’s tax revenue, and local businesses depend on tourist dollars to survive.

“We need to stand together to be the eco-friendly leader,” said Robert Koscelnik, general manager at the DoubleTree Suites Doheny Beach.

Also on Tuesday night, San Francisco city leaders approved an expansion of that city’s plastic bag ban. While the city’s grocery stores and pharmacies have been prohibited from handing out plastic bags for years, the ban will soon extend to restaurants, gift shops and other small retailers.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and pharmacies, according to the Associated Press.

— NICK GERDA

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