L.A. County Bans Plastic Bags: Is Your Brand Taking Advantage?

Back in November, Los Angeles County passed a law banning the distribution of plastic bags in retail stores. As of July 1, 2011, 67 supermarkets and pharmacies stopped providing plastic bags. All stores in the unincorporated areas of L.A. will adopt this policy by January 2012. Now customers have two options: purchase paper bags at 10 cents per bag, or start bringing their own reusable bags. Environmentalists consider it a huge win, while some economists predict the end of small business in L.A. Regardless of how you feel about the ban, one thing is certain: brands can use this to make a killing in brand impressions.

Reach the 1.1 million people affected by the plastic bag ban!

Reach the 1.1 million people affected by the plastic bag ban!

With over 1.1 million people affected by the ban, this makes 1.1 million people collecting reusable bags and 1.1 million people who will potentially see your brand. Customized bags are not only necessary for L.A. residents, but they are a very affordable and popular promotion. And with hundreds of choices and thousands of ways to customize, your bag doesn’t have to be just another brand in the crowd.

But the ban isn’t just in L.A. County. Many cities across the United States have either banned or taxed plastic bags, and many more are considering laws to do so. The market for reusable bags is expanding by the month and becoming “must haves” for many families across the US.

$1,000 of reusable totes equals 1,000,000 brand impressions.

$1,000 of reusable totes equals 1,000,000 brand impressions.

Need any more convincing? Let’s talk money. Per dollar, promotional bags reap one thousand brand impressions, beating out all other forms of promotion. So if you sink a thousand dollars (a reasonable sum compared to the price of a magazine or TV ad) into bags that will equal one million brand impressions. Let me say that again: one million brand impressions.  So whether you plan to sell them in your business or hand them out at events, you can be sure that your brand is going to go places.

This ban comes at a time when consumers are once again opting for eco-friendly products. The high price of eco-friendly products during the recession stalled the popularity, but as the economy has started to recover and manufacturers have cut costs, eco-friendly is once again an option! Many popular eco-friendly promotional items like pens are now comparable in price to their non-eco counterparts, and clients will be impressed that you’ve taken a step towards saving the planet.

Don’t delay, because now is the time to start expanding your brand in current and future eco-conscious cities.  Even the European Union is considering a blanket ban of plastic bags, so this might even be the time to consider an international promotion! Whatever you plan to do, don’t let this branding opportunity slip by!

Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on


  1. Cybernetic SAM

    I am a full supporter of this. I thought it was really great when I heard they had passed this law. I am so sick of people not taking initiative! You don’t know how many times I have seen people take Wal-Mart bags full of garbage and throw them out of their car. Look around the 10-mile radius of any Wal-Mart (although there are always numerous Wal-Marts within a 5-mile radius) and you’ll see bags EVERYWHERE — in the ditches, fields and trees! It drives me NUTS!

    I wish all stores would take this initiative. Yes, it is a pain in the neck to remember to take your own bags, but it’s a learned habit. You remember your wallet when you go to the store; if you had to bring bags to stores because there was no other option, you would certainly get into the habit. Most stores make it too easy for us to stay lazy.

    That’s why I like Aldi, where as most of you know, you have to bring your own bags, take boxes (which I guarantee are harder to toss out of your car window), or buy paper or plastic. So generally, people just bring their own. Even if we did not go bag-less at least stores could do the Aldi thing and do it at least half way. Thank you for writing this blog!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Whichever way you fall on the issue, getting your brand on a reusable bag just makes sense right now.

      I happen to agree with you 100%, though. I’m all for reducing plastic bags in our world. All of your points make a lot of sense.

      • Amanda

        I agree Mandy! I don’t think anyone can disagree that 1,000 or 1,000,000 brand impressions is a bad thing! And I agree with you too Sam, using your own, reuseable bags is just a habit, that will become easier with time. I’m already in that habit when I go to Aldi too. =)

  2. amy

    Great post Mandy! It really makes you wonder if other states will consider enforcing this ban as well. Or maybe it truly is a violation of our ‘free speech’ LOL

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Well, while plastic bag companies will lobby against a ban, everyone else can lobby for the opportunity to get one million brand impressions.

      Also, that guy needs to look up the definition of “free speech.”

  3. Joseph Giorgi

    If there was ever an opportunity for Southland businesses to capitalize on current events, this is it! Any business owner in Los Angeles not investing in reusable bags for customers is missing out, that’s for sure!

    Excellent post, Mandy! 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Seriously! Businesses should be investing right now! Even if you give the bags away, those customers are going to remember your name every time they go shopping.

  4. Rachel

    Really liking this idea of companies choosing to market themselves in response to a new demand for reusable bags. It’s not something I had thought about! And I had no idea that promotional bags reap so many brand impressions–though I guess it does make sense. We have reusable bags at home, and besides being great for groceries, I’ve also used them as overnight bags, or for bringing a dish to pass at a party, or as a carry-on at the airport … they really are super versatile, especially the ones you can get with zippers or that are insulated. All the more reason for a company to invest in them 🙂 Thanks for the great post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It’s definitely smart for companies to jump on a reusable bag promotion while L.A. County is in this transition period, and I hope that many of them do!!!

  5. Jen

    I agree with Sam, that stores should be more like Aldi, and force people to buy bags or bring their own.

    • Amanda

      I like how Aldi’s bag stystem works, because we can still use plastic if we want to buy them…and we’re much more likely not to throw them away. I even reuse the plastic ones from Aldi. This might make more sense than a ban, at least in the short term. I do think that eventually plastic bags will be banned all over though.

  6. JPorretto

    I like this a lot, but for more practical reasons. We made the switch to reusable tote bags a few years back and I’m never looking back. My personal favorite reason…. they simply just hold more. Now 7-8 trips from the car to kitchen for grocery shopping has become 4-5. One bag can hold 2 gallons of milk – It’s more efficient AND it keeps your hands from getting cold! That’s worth the price of admission right there!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m with you, Jeff. And hopefully more people can make the switch naturally instead of by ban. But either way, I know that I’m always looking for more reusable bags, and I know that I’m not alone.

  7. Jana Quinn

    Nice find, Mandy. Although I personally stockpile plastic bags to use in the garbage can in my washroom, I have been working to bring my reusable totes grocery shopping more consistently. As Joe said, ANY brand in the southern California area that has the means to take advantage of imprinting promotional bags and is choosing not to is missing a huge opportunity here.

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