CITYWIDE — Local businesses are joining thousands across Los Angeles County today to help protect the environment during Heal the Bay’s third annual “A Day Without a Bag.”

To help reduce the amount of plastic bags used, business owners, in conjunction with county officials and Heal the Bay, are encouraging shoppers to make use of reusable bags instead of disposable ones for an entire 24 hours.

Approximately 6 billion plastic bags, equivalent to 600 bags per person, are used throughout Los Angeles County annually, according to the 2007 report, “An Overview of Carryout Bags in Los Angeles County.”

In addition, reports from the California Integrated Waste Management Board said that less than 5 percent of plastic carryout bags are recycled, and those that are not recycled cost California taxpayers approximately $25 million to clean up and discard to landfills.

“The main goal is a public education event so that people choose reusable bags over single-use bags,” said Natalie Burdick, constituent development manager for Heal the Bay. “(Plastic bags) that don’t get into the trash get into the storm drain and become a tax burden to clean up; bags that get into the ocean get mixed up with marine life.”

Heal the Bay first organized “A Day Without a Bag” in 2007 to raise awareness about single-use plastic bags and their impact on the environment. A non-profit organization, Heal the Bay aims to make Southern California coastal waters, including Santa Monica Bay, safe and clean.

To help spread the word and entice shoppers to become more environmentally friendly, Heal the Bay has teamed up with a number of countywide and local stores and businesses.

Albertson’s, Ralphs, and 99 Cent Only store branches throughout Santa Monica and all of Los Angeles County, as well as certain Fred Segal and Banana Republic stores in Santa Monica, will each have their own special reusable bag giveaway and store promotions to help promote today’s event.

Albertson’s will be implementing their idea, “Pay It Forward.” Throughout various times of the day, customers at the front of the line will be awarded a free reusable bag. Store employees will then ask the customer to “pay it forward” by purchasing the same inexpensive reusable bag for the person right behind them in line. The goal is to see how many people continue the act down the line.

“We really are concerned about the environment, and we take environmental issues seriously and are committed to being responsible stewards of groceries and products,” said Lilia Rodriguez, public affairs manager of Albertson’s. “We are hoping customers really join the bandwagon and support “Pay It Forward.”

In addition, there will be multiple reusable bag giveaway sites that will either give free or reduced-price reusable bags to the public. The five participating locations include all four branches of the Santa Monica Public Library, as well as the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

The Santa Monica Public Library branches originally offered plastic bags to patrons to help carry their items, however, due to a significant public interest in the use of reusable bags during the libraries’ involvement in the first year of “A Day Without a Bag,” the Santa Monica Public Library system now offers reusable carry bags.

For more information about the day’s event, as well as specific store offers in your area, visit www.healthebay.org or call 1-800 HEAL BAY.

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