Plastic bags

The Los Angeles City Council will consider before the end of the month a ban on plastic bags like those used in supermarkets. This is already in effect in 74 cities, most of them in California. We agree that Los Angeles should join this list.

Bag manufacturers and workers who depend on that industry have reacted strongly to the proposal. They claim that hundreds or even thousands of people could lose their jobs if this ban is put into effect. They also say now is the worst time to do it, given the economic situation and the high gas prices.

The distress these workers feel is understandable. L.A.’s ordinance should include certain exceptions, as has happened in other cities, in order to avoid negatively impacting the most vulnerable companies such as restaurants. But let’s not get to the point where we can’t see the forest for the trees: Plastic trash is changing ocean ecosystems and contributing to environmental changes that still have unexpected consequences, but very likely negative ones, for the earth we live in.

According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, recent studies of water samples from the Pacific up to 1,000 miles west of California found 100 times more plastic in the ocean than what existed in 1972. These pieces of plastic affect the ecosystem in many ways: fish and other marine animals ingest them, and they help some insects that can consume the food of larger animals reproduce faster. We can only imagine what the world’s oceans will look like in another 50 years if we continue down the same path.

While it’s true that in the end some jobs will be lost, it’s necessary to retrain those workers for other jobs. We can’t indefinitely postpone change in an industry whose main product is one of the worst pollutants that exist on the planet; we must find the most beneficial solution for everyone.