Where do plastic bag fees go?

If you’re trying to start a plastic bag ban in your town, Center for a New American Dream is hosting a free webinar Sept. 23 that will show you how to organize your community behind the cause. Leaders from the plastic bag reform movement will discuss how to get started, how to build public support, and how to navigate the related legislative and legal issues, with a special look at successful initiatives in Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

Guest speakers include Jordan Parker of Bring Your Bag Chicago, Chris Kibler with the Department of Energy and the Environment in Washington, D.C., and Jennie Romer of PlasticBagLaws.org.

Since 1997, Center for a New American Dream has been raising consciousness around the devastating social and environmental impacts of our hyper-consumer culture by drawing connections between consumption and quality of life. Their mission: to improve well-being by inspiring and empowering all of us to shift the ways we consume.

“Bag the Bag” will begin at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST Sept. 23. To register, go to http://act.newdream.org/page/s/bagthebag2015.

To join Center for a New American Dream’s Unbottled Water Campaign, and download your free step-by-step guide to help your community breaks its bottled water habit, go here

Here’s a great earlier post about How to Ban the Bag in Your Town, with links to other city ordinances, tool kits and a map of successful bans in the U.S.

Photo credit: Heal the Bay / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Plastic pollution activists in Florida have started a petition targeting the Florida State House and Governor Rick Scott to ban the bag in the Sunshine State. The petition states:

Stop the purchase of single use plastic bags in Florida!

“The No. 1 thing we find on our beaches is plastics,” said Holly Parker, Florida’s regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental nonprofit. “There are a lot of plastic bags. … They aren’t biodegradable, they break down into smaller pieces and enter the food chain. They enter us.”

The one time single use of plastic bags is detrimental to our environment, wildlife, ocean and, therefore, ourselves. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. If we can encourage shoppers to buy reusable bags,we can protect the environment, reduce waste, as well as protect the animals of the ocean. Florida has a very delicate ecosystem that is in danger without our help and cooperation to stop ocean pollution. Florida is a major United States peninsula reaching out into our precious oceans like a giant arm throwing trash daily into our waters, unless we take a stand to Stop Ocean Pollution!

Sign it here.

How do I start a bag ban in my town? One of the most common questions we get in response to news about various bag bans is, “How can I do this in my town?” There are tons of scattered resources out there to answer this question, but we figured it might be useful to pull them together into a handy guide:

Step One: Educate Yourself on the Dangers of Plastic Bags Heal the Bay has been working on bag bans for years and has compiled a wealth of information about the effect of plastic bags on ecosystems and human health. Green Cities California’s Master Environmental Assessment also summarizes existing studies on the environmental impacts of single use plastic, paper, compostable and reusable bags, as well as the impacts of policy options such as fees and bans on bags.

Step Two: Build the Local Movement – Before you get the city council behind a bag ban, you need to get citizens on board with the idea. We recommend hosting a screening of the informative documentary Bag It as a way to get people together to talk about why a single-use bag ban might be a good idea. For more ideas and to learn about community organizing, check out campaigns by the Surfrider Foundation and ChicoBag’s Advocacy Toolkit.

Step Three: Connect with Others Working to Ban the Bag There are several groups working on bag bans throughout the world. The Clean Seas Coalition has worked on many of the successful bans passed in California recently and shares a lot of useful information on its site.

Step Four: Study Successful Ordinances – Hundreds of bag bans have been passed throughout the world. Surfrider Foundation hosts this great map to help you find successful ordinances near you. We also recommend reading through some of the model ordinances out there, including San Francisco’s bag ban, Marin County’s single-use bag ordinance and Monterey’s ban on polysterene take-out containers (Ch. 14, article 3). Several more can be found on the website Plasticbaglaws.org , which also includes more useful links.

Step Five: Write to Friends and Local Businesses You Support: It’s amazing how effective a simple letter can be.  Educate friends and local businesses and encourage them to join you in banning the bag. Sample letters you can copy and paste are available here.

Step Six: Contact Your Local Representatives : Write to or call your mayor, city council members, or state representatives to voice your support for a bag ordinance and encourage other like-minded members of your community to do the same. You can start a free petition to rally support here, and find contact info for your local representatives on your city government’s website. Contact information for state representatives is available here.

Step Seven: Keep Us Posted! : We will happily promote your efforts and celebrate your success. Simply comment here or on our Facebook page and we’ll help you get the word out.

By Tracy Russo

After an insistent year-long campaign by environmental and citizen activists, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law yesterday SB 270, legislation introduced by State Senator Alex Padilla (D) from Los Angeles. The legislation prohibits the use of single-use plastic bags in grocery and retail stores throughout the state of California, the first state in the nation to do so. The bill actually goes beyond a simple “bag ban.” Recognizing that removing plastic bags is only one strategy in the battle against wasteful consumption of both renewable and nonrenewable resources, the bill also requires that a surcharge of at least 10 cents be levied on paper bags, compostable bags, and even reusable plastic bags.

Response from environmental organizations is celebratory—but not jubilant. “It’s clear that there is a growing grassroots movement not just in California but across the country to stop plastic pollution,” said Dianna Cohen, CEO of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Our coalition consists of over 380 NGOs, businesses, and prominent individuals from around the world, all dedicated in their own ways to bringing about a measurable reduction of single-use and disposable plastics—plastic shopping bags, plastic bottles, and straws being the most pervasive.”

Cohen is one of many environmental leaders quick to add, however, that the passing of this legislation is “just the tip of plastic pollution iceberg. This is a global environmental crisis—there is no place on earth remote enough not be touched by plastic pollution. Which is why the movement is global—it has to be! This global network is growing, thanks to dozens of organizations, locally, nationally and world-wide.”

Leslie Tamminen, director of the Clean Seas Coalition and part of Seventh Generation Advisors, agrees that stopping the epidemic of plastic waste takes more than bans and laws. It takes “wide and sustainable changes in consumer behavior. Data from the over 121 local plastic bag bans has proven that bans are effective at reducing litter and changing consumer attitudes, and have refuted industry’s claims of apocalyptic impacts on jobs and poor communities.

A state plastic bag ban saves taxpayers the huge amount of money spent on litter cleanup, and protects the environment.” But the key, she goes on to say, is education—and organizations like hers and like PPC are focusing on exactly that. There is one more side of the issue that is just as important to Cohen as clean oceans and fiscal responsibility: the risks of plastic toxicity to human health and wellbeing, not to mention that of other living creatures. “Plastic pollution doesn’t just foul landfills, water ways, and ocean currents, the ‘bloodstream’ of our earth. It also contributes to the fouling of our blood streams, and those of animals who ingest it or become entangled in it.”

Scientific reports confirm that toxins from plastic bottles and packaging leach into our bodies, even in utero. “We all carry a toxic body burden. The Environmental Working Group carried out a study in 2004 measuring the levels and types of toxins in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies born at U. S. hospitals. They found an average of 200 chemicals per child tested. In other words, our babies are being born pre-polluted” (see “Toxic Babies”) . We now know these chemicals can affect neurological, endocrinal, and even the physiological development of fetuses.”

The link to various kinds of cancers is also being investigated. So the California bag ban is more than just a way to clean the place up. The legislation responds to growing concern over a complex set of ecological hazards. Concludes Cohen, “the fight against plastic pollution is not just an environmental issue. It’s a public health and social justice issue. Every one of us needs to understand these environmental and health risks.

And that takes us back to education, as Leslie (Tamminen) said — and on as large scale as possible.” The signing of the state-wide ban today is a huge step in the right direction. “But,” concludes Cohen, “we have to go beyond local efforts. This is just the tip of the iceberg, especially as we move away from fossils fuels—since plastic is a petroleum product! That’s why all of us who had a hand in the success of this legislation remain even more committed. We need to keep working at the national and international levels. Given the level of collaboration needed to get this bill signed, we know that we have our work cut out for us. Together we are turning the dial.”

PHOTO: Mouth of the Los Angeles River, Long Beach, California. © Bill McDonald, Algalita Foundation / Heal The Bay

This post appears courtesy of Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, PPC Ambassador