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UPDATED: Bring your own bags

Posted: July 5, 2011 11:47 a.m.
Updated: July 5, 2011 11:47 a.m.
Azucena Vargas, of Valencia, loads reusable bags into her car outside of Albertsons, on Copper Hill Drive, in north Valencia on Tuesday. Azucena Vargas, of Valencia, loads reusable bags into her car outside of Albertsons, on Copper Hill Drive, in north Valencia on Tuesday.
Azucena Vargas, of Valencia, loads reusable bags into her car outside of Albertsons, on Copper Hill Drive, in north Valencia on Tuesday.

Grocery-bag options are no longer a simple matter of “paper or plastic” for local consumers as the county’s plastic-bag ban targets some local supermarkets and not others.

The Los Angeles County ban on plastic shopping bags took effect Friday ,requiring supermarkets and large grocery stores in unincorporated areas of the county to stop the practice of bagging groceries with plastic bags.

But the ban affects only SCV stores outside of the Santa Clarita city limits.

After four days of the ban, the Santa Clarita Valley was proving to be a patchwork of grocery stores prohibited from bagging with plastic and those — sometimes competitors just down the road — exempt from the ordinance.

“All day, customers have been telling us, ‘Oh, you still do plastic bags,’ and we have to tell them, the law doesn’t affect us,” said Deborah Thompson, a manager at the Ralphs on McBean Parkway at Decoro Drive — inside the city boundary and unaffected by the ban.

“They just don’t understand the whole jurisdiction thing,” she said.

A cashier on her break outside the store noted of her customers: “They’re all confused.”

Although the ban was passed months ago, “It only went into effect now, and only in certain areas,” she said. “So, they’re confused — and so are we.”

Around the corner and about a mile away on Copper Hill Drive, the Albertsons supermarket is forbidden to put groceries into plastic bags.

For the past month, Albertsons Manager Gilbert Plasencia has posted a “ticking clock” sign outside his store to remind customers about the death knell for plastic bags.

“The sign said ‘29 days left,’ then ‘28 days left’ and so on,” he said. “People didn’t acknowledge what it was about until they’re at the cash register and then they say, ‘Oh, is it already here?’”

Forgetting the bag
The biggest concern Plasencia’s heard from customers, he said, is that they keep forgetting to bring in their reusable shopping bags.
“We keep hearing ‘Oh, I’ve got to remember the bag,’ or ‘Oh yeah, they’re at home,’ or ‘They’re in my husband’s car,’” Plasencia said. “People are reluctant to change.”

At one of his checkout counters, a shopping cart was loaded with groceries packed in banned shopping bags.

“It’s not me; it’s not me,” said the cashier, pointing to her customer.

“I brought them from home,”  Albertsons customer Michael Otnisky said of the outlawed bags as he prepared to pay for his groceries, “I have nothing against plastic bags,”  he said as he pushed his cart of plastic-bagged groceries out the store.
“The whole thing is silly. I should have a choice.”

As he left the store, he noted he has a degree in environmental studies.

Rick Crandall is the spokesman for the Albertsons supermarkets chain.

“The biggest complaint we’ve heard from customers is, ‘You took away our free bags.’ They have to remember that the bags were never free,” Crandall said, referring to bag costs passed onto customers.

Albertsons is offering its customers a reusable bag made of woven recycled plastic that can be cleaned. Reusable bags are expected to hold up for at least 125 trips of 100 yards per trip, each time carrying 22 pounds.

For those preferring paper bags over reusable ones, at least two of the large local supermarkets are selling their paper packing bags for 10 cents each.

Bagging options
Customers entering the Vons store on The Old Road in Stevenson Ranch are greeted with a sign warning of the ban.

Vons customers have a variety of cloth-bag options presented to them at each checkout counter.

“Actually, I think it’s a good idea,” Valencia mother Stacy Baker said as she exited the store with her groceries Tuesday.
“I just keep forgetting the bag,” she said. “We have a million in our trunk, and we still forget.”

Consumers will also have to remember to clean their reusable bags, said some store officials.

“We don’t want cross-contamination,” Crandall said. “Most of the (reusable) bags can be washed or at least sanitized with spray disinfectant.”

The onus to put meat products in protective plastic wrap available at most of the large stores still lies with the consumer, he said.

County decision
In November, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to ban plastic grocery bags in unincorporated areas of the county.

Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, opposed it.

When asked Tuesday for a response to the ban now in place, Antonovich replied: “At a time of economic uncertainty and with large numbers of businesses leaving our state, this is not the appropriate time to impose additional regulations on businesses, and an additional tax on consumers.

“In place of draconian fees and regulations, educating our residents on the harm of illegally disposing their plastic bags can be effective in ensuring that these bags don’t end up on our beaches, and in our rivers, parks and landfills.”


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