On August 29, 2014, the California Legislature passed SB 270, the single-use bag ordinance. Gov. Jerry Brown followed through in September and signed the bill into law. “I think,” said Gov. Brown, “on balance, this will protect the environment—because we have far too much waste and throughput—but at the same time we’re doing it in a very standard way that will not disrupt business in California.”
A day later, though, the plastics industry initiated a referendum to challenge the ban, putting it on hold until Election Day, November 8, 2016. On that day, voters put an end to shopping-bag litter by voting YES on PROP 67, and NO on PROP 65.
Our many colleagues in the Clean Seas Coalition advocated across the state on behalf of this issue. For example, NRDC put together a clear summary of the issues, and facts on the substantial benefits that municipal bag bans have already conferred on the landscape: Say good-bye to the plastic shopping bag.
We celebrated when Jerry Brown signed SB 270, and we celebrated on November 9, when the outcome of the vote was known. In our hearts, we sang along with the chorus in this rap video produced by Ben Zolno of New Message Media:
Don’t forget foam foodware, another harmful single-use plastic. In 2012, San Rafael passed a foam food-ware ban, and so have 77 other municipalities in California. But we have work to do still! You can help by taking a letter to your favorite food server or your office’s party planner, urging them to go green and leave polystyrene behind. Here’s our letter to food purveyors.
Consequences of Convenience
We’re addicted to plastic, especially plastic bags.
If you are like 95% of US shoppers, whenever you purchase anything, it ends up in a plastic bag. In the grocery store, most of us put our vegetables and fruits as well as bulk items into single-use plastic produce bags, and all those bags end up in a single-use plastic check-out bag.
Shoppers worldwide are using 500 billion to one trillion single-use plastic bags per year.
This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth. And the number is rising.
- Plastic bags are made from a non-renewable resource: oil!
An estimated 3 million barrels of oil are required to produce the 19 billion plastic bags used annually in California.
- Greenhouse gas emissions
Plastic manufacturing’s air pollution contributes to “global weirding” (extreme weather of all sorts).
Plastic is food for no one. It never completely breaks down.
We see bags hanging on trees, along the roadside, slipping down the storm drain, and floating in the ocean. Even when we do put them in the garbage, they don’t always make it to the landfill. 47% of landfill blow-away trash is plastic.
Manufacturing plastic releases toxins in the air, as does recycling plastic. The additives used in plastic are often toxic and can leach into our food. The surface of plastic is chemically attractive to some of the worst toxins in our environment (e.g., PCBs and pesticide metabolites).
- Harm to Marine Life
An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, one million seabirds, and countless fish worldwide are killed by plastic rubbish each year.
- Choking the ocean
Beaches on every continent are littered with plastic scraps and particles. In a 2008 surface trawl of the North Pacific Gyre, 46 pounds of plastic were found for every pound of zooplankton.
- We’re eating plastic
Fine particles of plastic are taken in by filter-feeders in the ocean. These plastic-laden creatures are then eaten by larger animals and plastics work their way up the food chain, all the way to our seafood menu.
Green Sangha’s Work
Since 2006, our actions have included:
- Giving over 280 presentations to over 8500 citizens
- Co-leading a successful campaign to ban plastic check-out bags in Fairfax, California
- Catalyzing zero-waste lunch policies at schools and non-profit centers
- Inspiring Bay Area markets to give up plastic produce bags, reducing that form of waste by 8 tons a year
- Publishing articles in newspapers and magazines
- Showing our plastics display in scores of festivals, conferences, and other public gatherings
- Testifying before elected councils and boards
- Collaborating with electeds, grocers, and non-profits in the BYOBag Marin campaign, leading to bag, bottle, and foam food-ware reduction
What You Can Do
- Be the Change
- Take your reusable bags wherever you shop; if you forget it, go get it!
- Visit MyPlasticfreeLife.com to see how Beth Terry has reduced her plastic footprint creatively, and with good humor, too.
- Learn about Ban the Bag Movements & Legislation in your area.
- Learn more about Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics Campaign.
- Join the Campaign. Sign up for our Email Newsletter to read about current actions and starting one in your community.
- Support Our Work. Donate to help us spread the word and produce more videos, raising awareness and catalyzing real change.
Tell us your ideas and wishes for your locality, and we can multiply our results. We can speed the “Great Turning” away from the model of industrial waste and pollution, and instead move toward sustainable communities.
Plastic State of Mind Credits
Ben Zolno of New Message Media – Writer/Lyricist/Director/Bag Boy/Editor
Glenn Sauber – Shopper
AshEl Eldridge – Rapper
Jenni Perez – Singer
Bex Kanengiser – Cashier
Many Green Sangha volunteers – Shoppers
Amy English – Production Coordinator, AD
David Nakabayashi – DP
Harrison Pierce – Consultant, Animatic, AC
Bo Cox – Camera Op
Working Music Track – Colin Menzies
Final Music Track and Mastering – Amurai
…and thank you to all the wonderful volunteers!