John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Your weekly roundup of what cities are banning around the world.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (past editions):
PLASTIC BAGS, IN LOS ANGELES
On Wednesday, L.A.'s City Council finally passed a long-in-the-works ban on plastic bags, making it the largest U.S. city to adopt a prohibition on the environmentally hateful carry-alls. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times has detected resistance to the impending law. Here are two bag fans that the newspaper quotes:
"If they don't give me a bag, what am I going to do?" an incredulous William Macary said as he entered the Wal-Mart in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. "If I pay money, I want a bag."
Santiago Camacho, standing inside one of Wal-Mart's 27 grocery aisles, bristled at the idea of having to buy a reusable bag when he stops at the store after work. "It's not that expensive, but after a while it adds up," he said.
Another woman tells the reporter that if she's forced to obtain a reusable tote, she'll definitely "forget to bring my bag, and I'm not going to want to pay, so Target will probably lose some of my business." Here are a few other people spouting off about the ban:
Mark Daniels, lobbyist at the American Progressive Bag Alliance:
Not only is this poor economic policy, it will do more harm to the environment by pushing residents towards higher carbon footprint products. Reusable bags require significantly more water and energy to produce than plastic bags and emit more greenhouse gases in their lifecycle. Furthermore, reusable bags are shipped from overseas, are predominantly made from foreign oil, and cannot be recycled. By passing this ordinance, the L.A. City Council has sadly ignored the facts and voted in favor of limiting consumer choice, increasing grocery bills, killing local jobs and harming the environment.
Bag bans rank high on the list of frauds and con jobs ever pulled on well-meaning Americans. That is absolutely shameful, but the perpetrators are shameless. Though I’m still abstaining from a real rant, there is one feature of the Los Angeles ban that keeps nagging at me: Is this the first time the proceeds of a “tax” created by an American political body go directly to private organizations, or have I missed a trend?
Today, I cast my vote to make sure we put the final nail in the coffin of the plastic bag fee and the plastic bag ban.... Plastic bags are 100% recyclable. #Toronto encourages reuse or recycling them in your blue bin.
(OK, that last one doesn't deal with L.A., but it's interesting that as one ban gets passed another could die.)
So, for the record: Americans are hopeless without plastic bags. Come 2014, when the ban goes into effect for larger stores (smaller ones get a few months' reprieve), everybody will be unemployed and rivers of food-stamp-purchased apples and Pringles cans will roll down the streets as shoppers futilely try to carry home groceries with their hands.
IN OTHER BANNING NEWS...
• The term "fashion police" just got a little more literal in Canada, where the government on Wednesday passed a ban on protesters wearing masks. Bill C-309 has penalties severe enough to send somebody to prison for 10 years if they happen to have something over their face during riots or an unlawful gathering. Reports CBC News:
[Blake] Richards, MP for Wild Rose, Alta., said the bill is meant to give police an added tool to prevent lawful protests from becoming violent riots, and that it will help police identify people who engage in vandalism or other illegal acts. The bill is something that police, municipal authorities and businesses hit hard by riots in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and other cities in recent years, were asking for, according to Richards....
"We can all rest easier tonight knowing our communities have been made safer with its passage," said Richards.
The measure did not draw universal support from Canada's lawmakers, but wound up eventually passing with twice the amount of potential prison time than what was prescribed in the original draft. Civil agitators should take note, though, of the bill's exception for people who need face attire for medical reasons. That might spell the death of the Guy Fawkes mask in Canadian protest circles, and the rise of the paper face-guard for flu sufferers.
• Perhaps due to their homes being overloaded with rabbits, fish, turtles and chicks, town officials in Fountain Hills, Arizona, have outlawed live animals as prizes in carnival games. The ban came at the urging of Mayor Linda Kavanagh, who was upset to discover that carnies were doling out critters to kids who win in games of skill, like ring tosses and dart throwing. Kavanagh has called the practice "cruel and inhumane," saying she's "received numerous calls from parents panicked about having to care for the animals and the potential for contracting diseases," reports the Arizona Republic.
• A French court has sealed a loophole that allowed citizens to smoke in restaurants. The country passed a ban on puffing away in bars and cafes in 2008, but that only made business owners maintain enclosed terraces outside their establishments where nicotine fiends could light up, creating what one local calls "huge" and "intolerable" clouds of smoke. Late last week, though, the highest appeals court in France ruled that these terraces should not be de facto sanctuaries for flouting the law. French politicians are coming down hard this year on smoking – also in the works are potential bans against electronic cigarettes and smoking in parks and in cars when children are present.