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Paper nor Plastic: L.A. County Bans Plastic Bags, Adds Surcharge to Paper Ones

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"The cost of convenience can no longer be at the expense of the environment."

Davon Johnson, right, bags groceries at a Giant supermarket in Washington on Friday, Jan. 18, 2008. The store has both plastic and paper bags available, and also sells reusable bags in the store. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

In Los Angeles county supermarkets and pharmacies, the only plastic soon to be allowed at the checkout is food containers and credit cards. Or in reality, anything but plastic bags.

Tuesday night, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to ban plastic grocery bags in areas of the county under its jurisdiction, the LA Times reports.

The ban, which will be in place by 2012, will cover 1,000 stores throughout the county. However it doesn't stop there: the legislation also wants to nudge people away from using paper bags by forcing stores to add a 10-cent surcharge per paper bag used.

(Read the ban.)

According to the Times, "the goal ... is to get people to adopt reusable bags made of cloth or durable plastic that can be wiped clean." However, an exception is being made for produce bags.

"Plastic bags are a pollutant. They pollute the urban landscape. They are what we call in our county urban tumbleweed," said County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

According to one environmentalist, recycling the bags is no longer enough.

"You cannot recycle your way out of the plastic bag problem," Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica environmental group Heal the Bay, told the Times. "The cost of convenience can no longer be at the expense of the environment."

Not everyone agrees.

"At a time of economic uncertainty, with a large number of businesses leaving our state and community, this would not be an appropriate time ... to impose this additional regulation," County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said. He was the lone member to vote against the ban.

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