Guide to Laws Affecting the Environment in Los Angeles
Environmental laws are made at the federal, state, and local level.
Be sure to read our Guide to Laws about the Environment in California and our Guide to Laws Affecting the Environment in the U.S.
1. Plastic Bags
Do cities have their own rules about plastic bags?
If the city had passed a plastic bag ban before Jan 1, 2015, such as the Los Angeles bag law, the city can enforce its own law. But most of the city laws are almost identical to the state law.
Is polystyrene foam (“styrofoam”) banned in California?
Currently polystyrene foam (also known as styrofoam) is not banned statewide in California, but many cities have banned it from being used in takeout food packaging, including Hermosa Beach, Laguna Beach, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach, San Clemente, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and many more. See full list of cities banning polystyrene.
3. Plastic straws
Are plastic straws banned in Southern California?
In the city of Malibu, plastic straws are essentially entirely banned. That is, businesses are not allowed to give out plastic drinking straws at all.
As for the rest of California, there is a not-quite “plastic straw ban” but more like a “straws on request” regulation. As of January 2019, restaurants in California are not allowed to give customers plastic straws unless they specifically request it. Fast food restaurants are exempt from this law, although starting in April 2019, the city of Los Angeles will apply this to fast food chains, large grocery stores, and other large food vendors. In October the regulation will apply to small businesses of these types.
Straws made out of other materials, such as paper straws, are not affected by any of these laws.
4. Utensils and Other plastic items
Are any other plastic items banned?
More and more cities in California are starting to prohibit restaurants and food vendors from selling or offering plastic stirrers, utensils, and other items. Some of these cities are Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, San Luis Obispo, and Malibu.
Can restaurants give out plastic utensils in the city of Los Angeles?
Yes, but as of November 15, 2021, restaurants may not give out plastic utensils or napkins unless a customer specifically requests it.
5. Illegal dumping and hazardous waste
Is it illegal to dump hazardous waste?
Illegal dumping carries a minimum fine of $5,000 per day per violation up to $100,000 per day per violation or imprisonment.1Section 25189.5 of California Health and Safety Code
Instead, you can find a hazardous waste disposal location near you. For the city of Los Angeles, you can dispose of these items at a “SAFE” Center managed by the City Sanitation department.
Is it illegal to throw out batteries, lightbulbs, or electronics in the trash?
Yes, see above. Batteries, lightbulbs, electronics, and items containing mercury are considered “Universal waste,” and it is illegal to dispose of them in the regular trash. You can instead throw these out at many hardware stores or other locations.
6. Air quality
Is it illegal to burn wood in Southern California?
On certain “spare the air” or no-burn alert days with poor air quality, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) may declare a temporary ban on burning wood or manufactured fire logs in fireplaces or outside fire pits. Generally there are exceptions for homes above a certain altitude, or for low income households. Gas burning fires are generally OK (except in cities where they are banned).
To determine whether the ban on burning wood is currently in effect, see the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) website.
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