Let’s Send a Clear Message to the Plastic Bag Industry

Photo by Alistair

The plastic bag industry just needs to realize it’s over.

Thick skulled. Tone deaf. Toxic. Desperate. Dumb.

Any other ideas what to call a pig-headed industry group, led by a South Carolina-based polluter and bent on rolling back progress in California?

The group aims to stop California’s groundbreaking ban on single use plastic bags by putting it to a popular vote. To overturn the law, they’d have to collect 500,000 voter signatures by the end of the year to get a referendum on the November 2016 ballot. They’re prepared to spend big to make that happen.

But we don’t think the state bag ban is going anywhere. Thanks to regional victories by Save The Bay and others, one-third of Californians already live with a local bag ban, and the sky has not fallen. Grocers have not gone out of business. Consumers have not revolted in outrage. In fact, adapting has been easy, and we’ve already kept billions of wasteful bags from littering our cities, contaminating our waters and choking our wildlife.

Unfortunately, if opponents of progress get enough signatures to place the repeal on the ballot, the state would have to shelve the ban until a popular vote could happen at the end of next year. That delay alone would mean 18 billion—yes, billion with a B—single-use bags unnecessarily wasted.

As an editorial in the Mercury News smartly puts it:

 “If ever a referendum deserved to be trashed, it’s the plastics industry’s attempt to undo California’s first-in-the-nation plastic bag ban. … If it does, let’s call it the Right to Pollute Streams and the Ocean, Kill Wildlife and Overflow Landfills Initiative.”

So tell your friends, family and neighbors to watch out for the plastic industry’s paid canvassers, and to be prepare to tell them exactly where they can stick their single-use plastic bags when they come looking for a signature.

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Wildlife is Resurgent – Reflections on National Wildlife Refuge Week

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Photo by Rick Lewis

Last week, I accompanied Save The Bay’s habitat restoration director Donna Ball on a visit to our restoration site at the vast Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. As we drove along levees in various stages of restoration, I was transfixed by the copious birds: kites gliding inches above glassy waters of tidal marsh; osprey and hawks circling high above; a great blue heron here, a snowy egret there, each wading nonchalantly in the tide. The amazing thing out at Eden is that you’re standing at water level and can see the shimmering of cities of the Penninsula to the West, and rushing traffic on the San Mateo Bridge just to the north; you know you’re standing in the very heart of the Bay Area—and yet you are also in a whole different world: a secluded, natural oasis resurgent with wildlife. It’s pretty amazing.

It’s National Wildlife Refuge Week, a perfect time to reflect on the diversity of life on our Bay shores and in the Bay itself. To celebrate the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the creatures it helps protect, here’s a roundup of some of our favorite video and blogs on Bay wildlife.

Restored Wetlands Welcome Wildlife
In this 8-minute clip, NewsHour highlights our friends at the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, showing how restored wetlands welcome wildlife and protect against future floods

Leopards, Angels, and Hounds, Oh My! — Sharks in the San Francisco Bay
Did you know that San Francisco Bay has six resident shark species and one species of ray living in the San Francisco Bay, and several of those species are considered threatened or vulnerable?

Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, the Tiniest Endangered Species
There’s a unique mammal that makes its home among the reddish pickle weed in the low Bay Area’s tidal marsh, and which is so tiny most people have never even seen one. The salt marsh harvest mouse is mostly nocturnal, totally adorable, and, sadly, endangered.

The majestic birds of SF Bay
Bay Area Bird photographer Rick Lewis shares his stories of the majestic birds of San Francisco Bay, and why they’re worth saving. His photos pose the question: “How fortunate we are to live here along the Pacific Flyway, to have the privilege of catching our breath at the wonder of the wildness right here in our urban landscape, to share this habitat with the wildlife among us?”

Want get up close and personal and learn more about Bay wildlife? On Saturday, October 18, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is hosting a day of wildlife science. Find the details here.

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Planting day at Eden

Eden planting

We had a productive day of planting at Eden Ecological Preserve along the Hayward shoreline.

With just five staff and two volunteers, in two days we planted a total of 1,900 plants, all mulched and watered at Eden E!

It’s been a dream since I started with Save The Bay for a staff planting day to get 1,000 plants in the ground and yesterday that dream became a reality. We actually haven’t planted that many plants even on volunteer days with 60+ people. I am extremely proud of the restoration team for their hard work and dedication to getting this project accomplished. With the drought setting us back last winter, we still have a long way ahead of us — we need over 15,000 plants to be planted at Eden E by staff this winter — but with such a strong start I believe we’ll be able to pull it off.

Though hard to see in this picture, there are plants in every mulch pile. Now we just need a TON MORE RAIN!

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An Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council

Our Policy team has been busy fighting cigarette butts in the City of Berkeley. After putting up the bus stop ads you helped to fund, we asked you to sign a petition urging the city council to prioritize this serious threat to water quality in the Bay. Nearly 300 residents responded, sending a clear message to the council that they need to play an active role in preventing toxic, plastic cigarette butts from littering our streets and the Bay. Below is the letter we sent to the council. Stay tuned for developments.

RE: Berkeley residents are concerned about cigarette butt litter

Dear Mayor Bates and Councilmembers,

Save The Bay is concerned about the impact of cigarette butt litter on local waterways and the Bay. Berkeley is one of the many communities in our region that is inundated with this toxic, plastic trash, which flows into storm drains and out to the Bay. Save The Bay estimates that over 3 billion cigarette butts are littered in the Bay Area each year, many of which will end up in our waterways. A single cigarette butt in a liter of water is toxic enough to kill half of the fish in that water – imagine the impact thousands can have on Berkeley creeks and along the shoreline.

We are not the only ones concerned. We asked our members in Berkeley to share their opinion with the city council by signing this petition:

I’m one of many Berkeley residents concerned about the effects of cigarette litter on our environment, wildlife, and water quality.

Berkeley has a serious cigarette butt litter problem. During one litter survey, city staff collected an average of 104 cigarette butts at locations throughout the city; bus stops had the most butt litter, with an average of 271 butts at each stop.

Cigarette butts are toxic, plastic trash. In addition to the dozens of toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the leftover tobacco, cigarette filters are plastic and do not biodegrade. They don’t belong in our creeks and along our shorelines.

In order to stem the tide of cigarette butts flowing from our streets into the Bay, our city needs to invest in outreach and take steps to ensure compliance with our existing outdoor smoking ban. Limiting outdoor smoking will keep our citizens and our environment safe and our creeks clean and beautiful.

As of today, 292 Berkeley residents have signed the petition – a strong indication that your constituents want the city to devote resources and attention to implementing solutions. We urge the council to prioritize this issue and look forward to working with you to keep cigarette butts out of our creeks and the Bay.

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How We Did it: Banning Plastic Bags in the Bay Area and Beyond

To learn more about California’s journey to a statewide bag ban, check out our interactive timeline.

To learn more about California’s journey to a statewide bag ban, check out our interactive timeline.

For the last 6 years, Save The Bay has worked publicly and behind the scenes to build the progress necessary to secure today’s victory at the statewide level. 80 percent of Bay Area residents live in a jurisdiction that has adopted a plastic bag ban and the rest of our region is now covered under California’s statewide bag ban. How did we get to this point?

In designing our “The Bay vs. The Bag” campaign, we asked ourselves one important question: What could compel Bay Area city council members and county supervisors to pass a plastic bag ban in their communities? Let’s explore this journey and the underlying strategy that guided us toward success.

A commitment:

To hold cities and counties accountable to taking action on plastic bags, we needed their commitment to the overall goal of reducing pollution flowing into the Bay. That’s why in 2009, we succeeded in getting the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board to adopt a regional permit that regulates trash flowing from storm drains into our Bay, with the requirement of reducing stormwater trash by 70 percent by 2017 and by 100 percent by 2022.

A trend:

By pressuring key cities to adopt bag bans, we could make it easier for future cities to get on the bag ban band wagon. It would be important to maintain momentum and create the perception that “everyone is getting on board” with bag bans, so that cities yet to adopt a ban would feel the pressure to take action. In 2009, we launched our “The Bay vs. the Bag” campaign to eliminate plastic bag pollution in the Bay Area by working to enact city and countywide plastic bag bans and create a regional trend.

A model:

We needed a major city to take the lead and demonstrate that a plastic bag ban was politically feasible and made good economic sense. That’s why, in 2008, we began working to get the Bay Area’s largest city, San Jose, to adopt a plastic bag ban. Two years of meetings with city council members, organizing local and regional groups, gathering and reporting bag litter data, and engaging neighboring cities to pledge their support finally led to success in 2010.

Partnerships:

In order to appeal to specific regional interests and lawmakers, we needed to build regional partnerships with the organizations and groups who held sway in the community. This proved to be especially important for the business community, to address city officials’ concerns about potential economic impacts of a bag ban. In working to pass a countywide ban in San Mateo, we partnered with the California Grocers Association to make the case that plastic bag bans will benefit the Bay and that consistent policies across city borders make the most sense  for residents and grocers.

Information:

One major need Save The Bay filled was educating city staff and officials about the extent of the plastic bag litter problem, its impacts on our Bay, and what other cities were doing to address this problem.  We gave presentations and provided case studies and fact sheets to dozens of cities, influencing their decision to pass bag bans. Citing data from shoreline and creek cleanups, we made the case that plastic bags were littering the Bay in huge numbers; in 2009, we estimated that over 1 million bags flowed into the Bay each year. We were also able to point to San Jose as a success story: one year after their ban went into effect, bag litter decreased by 89% in the city’s storm drains and 69% in its creeks. Communicating these compelling stats – both on the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of the solution – helped us convince cities to adopt bans.

Public support: 

A final and crucial piece of our strategy was to demonstrate public support of a plastic bag ban, both to hold elected officials accountable and provide them with the ammunition they’d need to stick their necks out and vote in support of a bag ban. Over the last 4 years, we’ve mobilized our community through online petitions in over 14 cities and counties, and outreach efforts in countless others. These petitions are often cited by decision-makers in their supporting statements for a bag ban.

To learn more about California’s journey to a statewide bag ban, check out our interactive timeline. 

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