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How effective, really, are the “save the environment” campaigns that we hear everywhere from Ring Road to Facebook to the ads in movie theatres before previews? Do we really pay attention? Maybe it’s time for a big victory on the part of the environmental enthusiasts to get the rest of us to wake up and force us to take action. And in one way, that’s exactly what has happened.

With the arrival of the new year, Los Angeles has enacted a ban on giving out free plastic bags in grocery stores. Large grocery stores are prohibited by law from giving them out, which leaves shoppers with the options of either using reusable grocery bags or else paying a dime for each plastic bag they get from the grocery store.

This is remarkable, for if the grocery stores really discontinue carrying plastic grocery bags, this policy will have to be enforced and effective. Unless there is major resistance on the part of the people, this policy really could be effective in cutting down on Los Angeles’ unnecessary spending to produce plastic bags, and also the harmful environmental effects produced by stray plastic bags, particularly to the ocean and ocean life.

Will people actually protest this? Well, it is Los Angeles (California, at that), meaning a lot of people are used to convenience. On the other hand, paying a dime per paper bag isn’t that inconvenient to a large sector of LA residents. But really, what could be more convenient than keeping a few reusable shopping bags in your trunk? Most people in Los Angeles travel by car, anyway.

As for other uses of plastic bags, like using them as trash bags or for storage, people will simply have to find other methods and maybe shell out a few extra dollars for actual trash bags.

Of course, what about the non-rich and famous, who can’t easily dispose of all of their free resources? Students and those without cars and homes might have a harder time with the ban if they happen to need to pick up a few things and don’t have their reusable bags on them. For as much wealth and glamour there is in Los Angeles, there are plenty of tight budgets, too, to say the least.

How would such a policy play out in Orange County? Orange County is also a place where a car is the most common form of transportation. Also, there is less polarization of class status here than in LA because many Orange County residents are upper-middle class. In fact, many Orange County residents might endorse such a ban out of the belief that they are doing their charitable part to contribute to a good cause by using reusable grocery bags (and may be more able to afford the 10 cents per paper bag if they need to…).

Again, there is the question of students and those on the lower end of the scale who might not always have a reusable bag handy on the way back from class or at the next bus stop. But hey, it helps the environment, right?

Ultimately, we would give up convenience for a greater purpose, like our friends in LA. It’s a matter of adjustment, and it’s really not asking much, particularly if Orange County were to give out thousands of free reusable bags like Los Angeles did. Come on, let’s do our civic duty! I’m down.

 

Karam Johal is a fourth-year women’s studies major. She can be reached at johalk@uci.edu.

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