11/30/16 Update: Hurray! Despite the disappointing national election results, California has some things to cheer about. We passed Prop 67, the single use plastic bag ban! Thanks to everyone who voted!
A few weeks ago, I did something completely out of my comfort zone. I signed up and then showed up to phone bank with Clean Water Action in support of Prop 67, a statewide plastic bag ban on the upcoming November ballot, and against Prop 65, a competing measure that could completely undermine efforts to eliminate plastic bag pollution across the state. I also dragged my friends Nancy and Corbina along with me since, you know, misery loves company and all that.
What is Prop 67?
In 2014, the California legislature passed SB270 (Padilla), a law which would ban single-use plastic carry out bags and require merchants to charge customers a 10 cent fee to purchase disposable paper bags. Shoppers could avoid paying the fee by bringing their own… Read the rest
Every year I visit the San Francisco Green Festival and wander up and down the aisles of vendor booths, looking for interesting plastic-free products but always finding a ton of plastic packaging. Organic foods packaged in plastic. Natural drinks in plastic bottles. Compostable products shrink-wrapped in plastic. But this year, my jaw hit the floor when I stumbled across a booth I’d never have expected to see at the Green Festival: Ziploc.
Why would a brand of plastic bags have a booth at the Green Festival? Because they have partnered with Recyclebank to reward people who pledge to take back their Ziploc bags to grocery store recycle bins to be recycled. Notice: Ziploc is not actually taking back the bags. They are rewarding people who go to the Ziploc page on the Recyclebank website, enter a code from the Ziploc box, and promise to take the bags back to the store.
What happens to plastic bags that are returned to grocery… Read the rest
It’s been all over the news for the past two days: Six Oregon girls, travelling to an out of town soccer tournament in Seattle, all got sick with norovirus after passing around cookies in a reusable bag. Scientists from the Oregon Public Health department did some sleuthing and traced the virus to the reusable bag. (Read the full story..) So, does that mean that reusable bags are dangerous? The disposable bag industry would like you to think so. Hilex Poly, the plastic bag manufacturer that mislead consumers about plastic bag recycling rates in December, sent out this gem to its subscribers yesterday:
Hilex Poly wants you to believe that reusable bags are dangerous because they can carry viruses. But let’s look at the actual facts of the case before jumping to that conclusion.
1) The first girl who came down with norovirus had not touched the reusable bag when she got sick. In fact, no one knows how she contracted the… Read the rest
Plastic bag recycling rates suck, and recycling is not the answer to the plastic bag problem in the first place. But the plastics industry continues to justify bag production by insisting that voluntary recycling programs are the solution to plastic bag litter and pollution. And this week, after the U.S. EPA released the recycling rates for 2010**, one plastic bag manufacturer is claiming, falsely, that plastic bag recycling has increased. Actually, the opposite is true.
Hilex Poly, the company that sued ChicoBag this year for allegedly reporting false information about plastic bags on its web site (charges which were never proven — but that’s another story) writes in a December 1 blog post, “Thanks to an industry-wide push, we’re happy to announce that the recycling of polyethylene (PE) bags, sacks and wraps increased to 15 percent in the last year!”
But Barbara Mason from ChicoBag analyzed the numbers and… Read the rest
I spent Thanksgiving week in Maryland with my family.
Here’s a picture of my dad. He has questions.
(Okay, that photo was taken in Hawaii in 2006 — not Maryland in 2011. But it’s nice, isn’t it?)
So we were at the local Giant Foods grocery store last week, and after I whipped out my handy ChicoBag reusable bags from my purse, the cashier said she thought Maryland was going to start charging a fee for plastic bags, similar to the fee in effect in Washington D.C. Turns out she was almost right. Prince George’s County (where my dad lives) wants to impose a bag fee but must get authorization from the State General Assembly. There will be a hearing this Saturday.
When we got home from the store, my dad looked at my ChicoBags and asked, “So I would need to get twenty of those to replace the twenty plastic bags I bring home from the store?”
I explained that reusable bags are stronger than disposable plastic bags, so… Read the rest
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… Read the rest
Yesterday, L.A. County voted to ban single-use plastic bags. And this morning, Green Sangha — an organization I’ve been part of since 2007 — released an awesome new video by filmmaker Ben Zolno of New Message Media. Watch, enjoy, and please pass it on to your friends. The message is serious. The medium is total, addictive fun.
For those who can’t hear or who can’t understand the lyrics, the whole thing is conveniently titled, and the lyrics are also printed out on the Youtube page.… Read the rest
I’m sick at heart this morning. I was going to write a post about how empowered I felt after taking my washing machine apart and putting it back together again. But I’m too upset by the actions of the California senate this morning to give a crap about that.
Last night, I fell asleep in my living room chair while watching episodes of Ugly Betty on DVD. Early this morning, Michael woke me up with some ugly news: California legislators struck down AB1998, the California plastic bag ban bill that so many of us have been excited about.
I wrote about AB1998 back in May right before it passed the California Assembly. I was so full of hope. The bill looked like it would go all the way. Even the governator had committed to signing it. But the American Chemistry Council spent these last few weeks buying politicians and releasing scary commercials (full of lies) to convince voters and legislators that banning plastic bags would pretty… Read the rest
Probably. I visited a plastic bag factory this past weekend. I took a lot of pictures and asked a lot of questions, and I’ll write more about what I learned in a future post. But I just had to share this tidbit of information right away: most plastic bags (and other plastics, for that matter) contain “slip agents” to reduce the friction in the material. And what are slip agents made from? Mainly animal fat.
The factory owner I spoke with called it “chicken fat,” but according to an article I found afterward, “Animal Derived Agents in Disposable Systems (PDF),” many of these slip agents are made from rendered beef tallow. Apparently, manufacturers of biotechnology are concerned lately about beef fats used in plastic materials that come in contact with bioprocess fluids. Why? Because of prions. (Aka “mad cow disease.”)
Rendered animals. Just one more reason to avoid the… Read the rest
Last month, I wrote about California’s plastic bag ban bill (AB 1998), and Fake Plastic Fish reader Old Novice commented that she thought bag bans were a bad idea and would instead favor a bag fee or tax instead. Well, the bill passed the full Assembly as well as the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, and it has now to pass another committee and then the full Senate. I’m in favor of the bill because it’s what we have. I think we need to do something about plastic bags, and I’d rather see a bag ban pass than nothing at all. But is a ban better than a fee? Let’s talk about that.
The Problems with Plastic Bags
According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition:
•Roughly 19 billion plastic bags are distributed in California annually.
•Less than 5% are currently recycled.
•Even when bags are properly disposed, they often blow out of trash cans, garbage trucks, and landfills and become litter.
•Most California retailers subsidize… Read the rest