CITYWIDE — Santa Monica-based environmental watchdog Heal the Bay is encouraging residents across Los Angeles County to go a day without a bag Thursday as part of its effort to spread the word about the dangers of using plastic bags.

The fifth annual “Day Without a Bag” education campaign will give Southland shoppers the opportunity to receive a free reusable bag when they visit various businesses, including retail, banks and grocery stores.

In Santa Monica, residents and visitors can get a bag at Union Bank, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and the Ralphs on Cloverfield Boulevard (from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.), according to Heal the Bay.

The Santa Monica City Council passed a ban on single-use plastic bags that went into effect Sept. 1., and imposed a 10-cent fee on paper bags. Elected officials were concerned about the bags’ environmental impact and wanted to encourage people to carry reusable bags.

More than 26 million plastic bags are used by Santa Monicans every year, city officials said, and that majority are not recycled or disposed of properly, contributing to pollution while posing a risk to marine life which may mistake the bags for food, according to Heal the Bay.

According to the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment, more free plastic or paper bags are used for 12 minutes before being released into the environment. Less than 5 percent of the 19 billion plastic bags used each year in California are recycled.

That has led cities like Santa Monica, San Francisco, Long Beach and Malibu, as well as Los Angeles County, to impose bans on single-use plastic bags. The Los Angeles City Council is poised to move forward with its own ban next week that would also include paper bags, according to Heal the Bay.

An estimated 2.33 billion plastic bags and 400 million paper bags are used annually in L.A.

“After five years of hosting this event, it’s gratifying to see us reach the tipping point in getting rid of single-use shopping bags in Los Angeles County,” said Meredith McCarthy, Heal the Bay’s programs director. “Bringing a reusable bag to the store is an easy and impactful way to improve the health of our oceans and neighborhoods.”

Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) has indicated that she plans to reintroduce a measure next year calling for a uniform statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, building on her previous legislative efforts.

“We’re proud to support Heal the Bay in this important effort to encourage sustainable choices to benefit the environment,” said Union Bank Senior Vice President and Regional Manager Christine Sarkissof. “We strongly believe in preserving the environment, and it remains one of our core values — our participation is one of the ways we demonstrate our commitment at the community level.”

For more information on “A Day Without A Bag,” go to www.healthebay.org/dwab

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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