Yesterday morning, I showed up at San Francisco City Hall to testify in favor of broadening the City’s plastic bag ban and discovered that no matter how many times I speak in public, I still get nervous every single time! But sitting in the audience with Eli Saddler from Ocean Health, and looking around at all my other friends from the environmental community (Save the Bay, SF Surfrider, and others) I knew that the butterflies in my tummy didn’t matter. I was prepared with incriminating photographs (see below) and supported by a lot of other committed activists.
Here’s the scoop: Back in 2007, San Francisco passed legislation banning plastic bags from large grocery stores and pharmacy chains. They had initially wanted to charge a fee for them but were stymied by the plastic bag lobby on the state level and had to resort to an outright ban. According to the Department of Environment, that ban resulted in an 18% reduction in plastic bag litter — but there was still a lot of plastic bag pollution to deal with, generated by restaurants and small stores. So this year, SF is considering an amendment to extend the ban to all plastic bags and to charge a fee for allowable bags (100% recycled paper, compostable, or reusable).
Here is my testimony along with the photos I presented as evidence that a broader ban is needed:
My name is Beth Terry. I write the blog MyPlasticfreeLife.com and have been working for the past five years to reduce my own personal plastic consumption and plastic waste and inspire others — in the Bay Area and around the world — to do the same. One thing I have learned is that while growing numbers of us are committed to voluntarily bringing our own cloth shopping bags and refusing disposables, these individual personal actions are not enough to stem the tide of plastic pollution. The problem is too great.
Yesterday afternoon, I came to the City for the Green Festival at the Concourse Exhibition Center. I exited BART at the Civic Center Station and walked the six blocks down 8th Street from Market to Brannan. On every block, I saw plastic bag litter. I counted 13 plastic bags in all. I had my camera with me and photographed the plastic bags all along the way. There were plastic bags on the sidewalk, in the street, under cars, in doorways, in bushes, and worst of all, stuck in a storm grate, which leads to the Bay. I did not touch, move, or arrange any of the bags before photographing them.
I commend The City for taking leadership to ban plastic shopping bags from large retail establishments, and I submit these photos to you as evidence that we must go further. There is still too much plastic bag litter inSan Francisco. Please vote to amend the San Francisco Environment Code to ban plastic bags from ALL retail establishments and food establishments in the City and to add a bag charge for all disposable bags to encourage San Franciscans to switch to reusable bags.
The committee voted to forward the amendment on to the full board despite the threat from Stephen Joseph, the attorney for the plastic bag industry, who made clear the industry would sue if the amendment went forward. I’m proud of San Francisco for standing up to the bullies and am glad that I could do my part to provide the City with added evidence that leglislation is needed.
I meant what I said in my little speech — while our personal voluntary actions are very important, they alone will not fix the problem without bigger action. Have you ever spoken before your City Council, Board of Supervisors, or whatever legislative body runs your town, county, or state? It’s a great experience, no matter how nervous you are about it. Just write down what you have to say beforehand. No matter what your level of public speaking skill, your voice matters!