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Los Angeles moves to eliminate plastic bags

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David Brancaccio: If this becomes a trend, America’s way of shopping could be about to change. The Los Angeles City Council has voted to phase out plastic bags at the checkout. This helps landfills and waterways and it means Angelenos need to bring a reusable bag or buy a paper one for a dime. There are entire countries that have banned plastic bags — Rwanda in Africa is one — but Los Angeles is the biggest U.S. city to do so. In Washington, D.C. there’s no ban on plastic bags, but there is a tax.

Leah Daniels runs a cooking store on Capitol Hill called Hill’s Kitchen. Good morning, Ms. Daniels.

Leah Daniels: Good morning.

Brancaccio: So in a kind of different way from what’s being anticipated in Los Angeles, the District of Columbia had done some thinking about what to do about plastic bags. Now, how have your customers reacted to this nickel that you have to tack on to each of these bags.

Daniels: Well around here it certainly has made a difference on the street — you don’t see McDonald’s bags, you don’t see 7-Eleven bags floating around the gutters nearly as much as you used to a couple years ago.

Brancaccio: Well that speaks to some success then.

Daniels: Absolutely and in terms of my business, I’ve given out many, many fewer bags in the past few years since the bag tax was enacted. It’s a line item in my budget, but I give out many, many fewer now.

Brancaccio: Is a cultural change going on here? Many people still find it tough to remember to bring the bag with you when you walk in to the store — it’s the oddest thing.

Daniels: I would say that’s more and more true with businesses like mine, where people are going shopping for the day or they’re going out for a lunchtime gift stop. When you go to the grocery store, you think about carrying a bag. When you are going to pick up a flour sifter, you don’t really think about it. That’s quite steep, but, you know, people will pay it if they want the bag. A lot of people take a bag as a gift from me; I’ll wrap a bag with tissue paper and make it quite beautiful so that it’s a present, it’s a special thing now. It’s only a nickel in D.C., but I wonder what the dime in Los Angeles will do though.

Brancaccio: It’s quite interesting. Leah Daniels runs a cooking store on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. called Hill’s Kitchen. Leah, thank you very much.

Daniels: Thank you.

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