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A shopper exits the Co-Opportunity grocery store on Broadway Tuesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITYWIDE — Today marks the official start-date of Santa Monica’s one-use bag ban, although enforcement will not begin until Sept. 1.

After that date, a 10-cent fee will be placed on each bag used.

The six-month grace period will allow retailers to use up the plastic and paper bags they already have in stock, and do research on the kinds of reusable bags they want to purchase, said Josephine Miller, an environmental programs analyst at City Hall.

“We wanted to give the retail community outreach and support, since all of retail is affected by this,” she said.

In the meantime, City Hall will continue promoting reusable bags, both by partnering with veteran groups that make bags out of old military materials, and creating programs for people with too many bags to share the wealth with the community.

The bag-making program helps fulfill both a council directive that city staff provide funds for free bags as well as promoting green jobs, Miller said.

“[Vets are] making approximately 5,000 a month,” she said.

Veterans involved with occupational therapy made three different styles of bag, including a knapsack, pouch and traditional handle bag.

Bag giveaway events are posted on the Office of Sustainability and the Environment website, as well as the number of bags given away.

To date, over 1,000 bags have been distributed in the community.

Come April, OSE will coordinate reusable bag drop-offs, for those community members that feel they have too many bags on their hands.

“If you have bags you’re not using, share them with other people,” Miller said.

The environmental community appreciates the symbolism of the date, but is really looking forward to September when the actual ban comes into effect, said Kirsten James, water quality director at Heal the Bay.

“Plastic bags are one of the most commonly found items during Heal the Bay beach and creek cleanups,” James said. “They get to the beach and they’re a blight on both the beach and urban communities. They also impact marine life.”

Marine animals get tangled up in the bags, or eat them, which makes a big impact, James said.

Heal the Bay was behind the push for the ordinance in Santa Monica, as well as a sponsor for Assemblywoman Julia Brownley’s failed attempt to get legislation statewide.

“It’s been a really long time,” James said. “We’ve been advocating for bag bans for about five years now, and we’ve been with Santa Monica through the whole process, which has been quite lengthy.”

The business community hasn’t shown any hostility toward the ban, said Brian Chase, director of government affairs with the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

“Our environmental affairs committee has put the proposed single use ban on the agenda each month,” Chase said. “There’s always been a sense of optimism.”

The hospitality industry hasn’t voiced any concern about the ban, Chase said.

“In that same vein, it’s important to keep in mind that our environmentally-friendly image is something that’s attractive as well,” he said. “A lot of people come because it’s a forward-thinking community.”

ashley@smdp.com

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