The Sunny Side of the Bag Ban: local reaction a month after Sunnyvale ditches the plastic

Sunnyvale residents Jessica Matsuura and Jessica Aronson sit in front of the city's reusable bag sign.
Sunnyvale residents Justin Matsuura (left) and Jessica Aronson (right) are both in favor of the new ban.

A month ago, the City of Sunnyvale enforced the first phase of their citywide ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags in my hometown. Many residents were pleased to hear that their city jumped on the plastic bag ban-wagon since neighboring cities have already enacted similar sanctions.

A few months before the June deadline, the city posted several signs in front of grocery outlets, shopping center parking lots, and other stores in an attempt to warn shoppers about the upcoming change. During the first few days of the bag ban, several retail stores helped shoppers adjust to the new change by handing out free reusable bags.

Thanks in part to the signs and giveaways, residents are slowly adjusting to the ban and learning to bring reusable bags everywhere—not exclusively grocery stores. “[Before the bag ban] I brought reusable bags to the grocery store. However, I relied on disposable bags from retail stores when shopping for other things. Now, I have been making an effort to bring reusable bags whenever I go out,” says Sunnyvale native Jessica Aronson. It is only a matter of time for this new habit to become second nature.

Like Aronson, local Sunnyvale resident Justin Matsuura and his family kicked the plastic bag habit a couple of years before the ban. Till this day, Matsuura continues this sustainable practice and takes pride in introducing this healthy habit to his college roommates at UC Irvine.  “Currently, Irvine does not enforce a ban on plastic bags, but I am encouraged that something similar might happen soon because the campus has drastically improved its facilities to reduce wasteful habits. I have even convinced my roommates who are from Southern California to start using reusable bags.”  Matsuura goes on to say that single-use plastic bags are a big waste of time, energy, and resources that end up in the trash or pollute our natural environment.

Without question this ordinance will help the environment, but it will also help our local and state economies. According to Sunnyvale’s government website and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, “Sunnyvale alone uses 75 million plastic bags a year, each resident on average using 497 single-use bags per year.” These bags continue to clog our waterways and contribute to Save The Bay’s estimated total of 1 million bags entering the Bay every year.  And within in the last 15 years only 5% plastic bags are actually recycled throughout California. Our negligence of proper disposal forces the state government to spend an estimated $25 million per year to clean our trash.

My friends and I proudly applaud our city’s effort to ban single-use plastic bags. In doing so, the city will instill sustainable habits for generations to come. We are hopeful that this will lead to other bans such as a ban on polystyrene (or Styrofoam) in our town. Aronson notes, “While the bag ban is an adjustment for some, I believe that we can turn the use of reusable bags into a lifestyle rather than just a policy.” Soon reusable bags will be commonplace throughout Sunnyvale.

Has your city banned single-use plastics? Sign our petition to urge Bay Area governments to ban plastic bags and polystyrene. 

– Vivian Reed, Former Communications Volunteer