The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
August 14, 2012

Please Take Action. Refusing Plastic Bags & Foam Is Great. Banning Them Is Better!

Most of us at this point have gotten in the habit of (or are at least working on) bringing our own reusable bags to the grocery store and refusing take-out food in polystyrene foam containers.  (You know, that white foamy stuff we all like to call Styrofoam but actually isn’t Styrofoam because Styrofoam is a brand name that doesn’t actually make foodware.)  But then we look around us and see plastic bags blowing down the street and polystyrene bits crumbling into the soil.

Our own personal actions are very important, but they are not enough to halt the problem.  We need action on a systemic level.  We need our leaders to get involved.  But guess what. WE are the ones they are waiting to hear from!

There are several petitions and letter writing campaigns you can get involved in RIGHT NOW.  Please take a minute to do it and pass along the word.  And even if you don’t live in California or Illinois, there are steps you can take.  Please read on…

California Plastic Bag Ban (AB 298)

Even if you don’t live in California, you should care about getting this legislation passed because California tends to be the leader in environmental regulation.  If we can get a plastic bag ban passed statewide in California, other states will follow.  The bill will ban plastic bags and require businesses to charge a fee for paper and reusable bags.  It also regulates reusable bags to make sure what is being offered instead is non-toxic and sturdy and will last over a certain number of uses.

You can:

Illinois — Don’t Let the Chemical Industry Prohibit Cities from Banning Plastic Bags!

The Illinois legislature has just passed a bill (SB3442) to basically ban plastic bag bans!  Now it is sitting on the governor’s desk, and he has just a few days left to VETO the bill.  Abby Goldberg, a 12-year-old girl, created a Change.org petition to urge the governor to veto the bill.  So far, her petition has received over 160,000 signatures, which she personally delivered to the governor last month, but he still has not said whether he will veto it or not.   He needs to hear from all of us.  And not just via a simple petition signature.
You can:
  • CALL Governor Quinn (217) 782-0244 or (312) 814-2121 and urge him to VETO the “Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act,” IL SB3442 (The most effective way to contact him right now.)
  • Sign the Change.org petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/governor-quinn-don-t-let-big-plastic-bully-me
  • Send an email to Governor Quinn via Surfrider’s Take Action Page: http://action.surfrider.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6130
  • Forward these links to your friends via Facebook, Twitter, Email!
Wondering if there is action you can take on plastic bags in your state?  Visit Bag It‘s “Bag It Town” page to download an activist toolkit, track the movement, or contact the organizers to learn more about what you can do.

California Polystyrene Foam Foodware Ban (SB 568)

Polystyrene foam is a kind of plastic, and it is a problem.  First of all, it’s hard to recycle.  According to the EPA, only 1 percent of all polystyrene waste was recycled in 2010.  Second, when littered, it crumbles apart easily and blows everywhere, making it very difficult to clean up.  The wind carries it out to sea, where it can mimic food for marine animals.  And finally, styrene, an ingredient in polystyrene, is a suspected carcinogen and can leach from polystyrene food containers and contaminate our food.  Let’s ban it across the state!

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38 Comments on "Please Take Action. Refusing Plastic Bags & Foam Is Great. Banning Them Is Better!"

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myparentsarehoarders
3 years 4 months ago

banning plastic bags in our town seems to have made things worse because now EVERY business is giving out “reusable” bags. I have dozens of these things and they seem so much more of a waste than the thin plastic ones. And where do the reusable ones end up? In the trash, because they’re so poorly made. 

Richard
3 years 4 months ago

I am a retired scientist, have lived on the shores of Monterey Bay for 40 years, & have been a Charter member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium since it opened in 1985.  Plastic bag bans have a disastrous effect on the coastal environment.  Two problems:   1.)     Each PAPER bag generates 50 TIMES as much water pollution (from coastal paper mills) as a plastic one. (EPA data) 2.)    No bag ban we have tallied is any more than 35% effective; all the rest is PAPER.  MOST bans are less than 25% effective!   These data have been collected in a very… Read more »

amy
3 years 5 months ago

The vote on SB 568 is going to be close. If you want to see polystyrene foodware gone in California you need to CALL your assembly member NOW and ask them to vote YES on SB 568!!!  Every vote counts!  SB 568 must pass by August 31, 2012. Find your assembly member and get their phone number at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/memberinfo  
 
Even if you signed the petition and/or sent an email you need to follow up with a call.  I recommend calling the office in Sacramento. 
 
We need the phones ringing off the hook with people saying vote yes on SB 568!!!

3 years 5 months ago

Here in Canberra, Australia, we have a sort-of plastic bag ban (the worst offenders are banned, but heavy duty bags are still available and the supermarkets sell them for I think 10c or maybe 15c. They are reusable, but still 10c isn’t enough of a disincentive for a lot of people to bring them back every time. But the worst thing is, the current opposition is making it an election issue, promising to reverse the ban!

Richard
3 years 4 months ago

Dear KirstenM,
See my data on why plastic bag BANS are an environmental diaster.  On August 23, 2012, the California Senate voted down a state-wide bag ban by a wide margin.  The  Senate realized the cost of the bans (between $1 billion and $1.5 billing) and began to realize the large environmental impact.  A California ban is increasingly unlikely and pressure to reverse the bans is growing.
 
Richard Wick

3 years 4 months ago

@Richard That’s interesting information, but actually in Australia paper bags aren’t generally offered. It’s buy a bag or bring your own.

3 years 4 months ago

@Richard

3 years 4 months ago

@Richard

KadiPrescott
3 years 5 months ago

@AlmostTruth @plasticfreebeth what?! The last time I checked, this was a free country & that means freedom to use plastic bags.

PlasticfreeBeth
3 years 5 months ago

@KadiPrescott @AlmostTruth Your freedom ends where our joint environment begins. No one’s free to screw it up for everyone else.

KadiPrescott
3 years 5 months ago

@PlasticfreeBeth @almosttruth I respectfully disagree.

AlmostTruth
3 years 5 months ago

@KadiPrescott There’s lots of things we do not accept for the benefit of all. A ban on plastic bags should be considered one of them.

KadiPrescott
3 years 5 months ago

@AlmostTruth I disagree. But at least I have the freedom to do so still.

AlmostTruth
3 years 5 months ago

@KadiPrescott Lol. I see, that makes sense. I guess I just see it a little differently.

KadiPrescott
3 years 5 months ago

@AlmostTruth lol! Honestly, it isn’t abt the plastic bags but freedom in general.

AlmostTruth
3 years 5 months ago

@KadiPrescott Yep, we have rights to free speech and opinions. Curious why you have such a strong opinion about plastic bags?

blessed
3 years 5 months ago

Beth, down here in Santa Cruz they just recently passed a county bag ban, and I think a ban on “styrofoam” take-out food containers as well.  All well and good, right?  Except I found out that it is a county-wide measure that does NOT include the cities of Capitola or the city of Santa Cruz itself!  In other words, it seems to be a horrible case of elitism, where the very people who proposed the ban and set it into place don’t really want to be inconvenienced in their own neighborhoods.  Grrrrrrr.  I’m all for both bans, and just don’t… Read more »

Anonymous
3 years 5 months ago

I think it’s better to TAX (or put a fee on) bags, styrene containers, etc. rather than banning them. That way, you get some revenue, which you can use towards mitigating the effects. And people feel as if they have a choice; they get more resentful when things are completely unavailable. They will gradually learn to CHOOSE to bring their own bags. And this will filter back to the storeowners and manufacturers.

amy
3 years 5 months ago

It is very difficult to pass new taxes in California since Prop 26 was passed in 2010. Prop 26 requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in the California State Legislature to raise taxes, fees, etc.  Before Prop 26  such taxes were enacted with a simple majority vote.
 
There is plenty of choice allowed by SB 568. It simply states that polystyrene foam cannot be used.  That leaves many other options including, but not limited to, different plastics, paper, bamboo, corn, etc. 

Katie Ostrich
3 years 5 months ago

I don’t know about all states…..but in a lot of them (California for example), the plastic bag industry successfully lobbied to make it illegal for cities and towns to tax plastic bags. SF was planning on passing a tax initially, but went with a ban when that was the only option that remained. The Bag It movie has pretty good info.

Richard
3 years 4 months ago

Dear Katie,
I am a retired scientist and the Bag It movie is rubbish!  It is extremist entertainment, not real factual science.  But don’t get me started.
Richard Wick

Katie Ostrich
3 years 4 months ago

I am a fisheries biologist, and while Bag It is a movie, nothing more or less, the information regarding policy is sound. It is in this respect that I recommended it, not as a scientific resource.

Anonymous
3 years 5 months ago

Into what can polystyrene foam actually be recycled? (downcycled, I assume?)  I was in LA recently, and the recycling bins accept foam (though it looked as if ALL takeout food containers were foam, and almost none of them were being recycled) and so I wondered what actually happened to it. Thank you.

amy
3 years 5 months ago

Most of the polystyrene in LA in curbside recycling bins ended up in the landfill.  In 2011, Los Angeles County staff found 32 communities in the LA area attempted to recycle EPS. 15 of the 32 communities collected and sent expanded polystyrene (EPS) to the landfill because it was not clean enough to recycle. Food residue contamination caused an additional 8 communities to discontinue the collection of EPS altogether. Leaving only 7 communities with foam collection and recycling programs  You can read more at http://dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/drp/EPS%20Board%20Letter_signed.pdf

Lucky2
3 years 5 months ago

Why will the California bill require businesses to charge a fee for paper?

3 years 5 months ago

Was all high on inspiration and motivation, then went to the website: OH RIGHT, Seattle did this two years ago. Okay. Off to spend my inspiration on something else…. 

Chelsea Gale
3 years 5 months ago

Thanks Beth, I’ll get started on those actions steps right now!

3 years 5 months ago

Thanks for giving us a ‘heads up’ on this Beth. I’ve signed online petitions, made calls, and written letters about the plastic bag ban AND SB 568. My concern is that if they ban the foam food ware what’s to prevent restaurants from using plastic containers instead of biodegradable alternatives? I will continue to write and speak with restauranteurs wherever we go to eat about alternative to plastic. Consumer pressure seems to be the best route. Any thoughts?

amy
3 years 5 months ago

Writing letters in support of bills like SB 568 and AB 298 is super!!!  Letters and calls count for sooooo much more than petition signing. My suggestion is to make it a party.  Get a group together to write letters/make calls.  Everything is more fun in a group.    In addition to writing letters to elected to officials and businesses  to support bills like SB 568 and AB 298, you can write to business associations.  It would be a game changer if the California Restaurant Association supported SB 568 or at the very least did not oppose it.  Restaurant owners… Read more »

3 years 5 months ago

Thanks for the notification on the situation in Illinois. I followed all three avenues of opposition to the ban bans legislation.

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