Reality Check for Big Plastic: 60% of California Supports the Bag Ban

Bag Ban Referendum Plastics Industry Pollution Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are a blight on the environment, no matter how the plastics industry spins it. Photo via Anthony Fine on Flickr.

Hot button issues like the passing of recent statewide bag ban – the first of its kind in the nation, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown and the hard work of thousands of like-minded activists (at the state and local level) – never fail to bring out the best and worst in people.

When it was signed into law on September 30th, victory bells rang, birds flew triumphantly through the air, ocean wildlife breathed a sigh of relief, and life went on much as it did before the bag ban passed. Employment rates did not plunge (bag ban opponents claimed they would), and no one except for the grumpiest of grumbly Republicans complained of government overreach. Statewide support for the bag ban remains strong.

Although its impact stands to keep billions, yes, billions of plastic bags out of landfills and our waterways, prevent them from harming the environment for centuries (because plastic literally does not biodegrade), and save Californians millions and millions of dollars collectively each year, plastic bag manufacturers still want the law overturned.

Why? So they can keep making money, of course! If you want a good chuckle, read the comical propaganda manufacturing giants like Novolex have concocted to distract you from their ulterior motives. Some of our favorite bogus statements are outlined in this LA Times’ editorial by columnist David Lazarus, which calls out the plastics industry’s claims and smartly compares its current position to the car industry’s opposition to seat belt laws.

But they aren’t simply spreading misinformation via websites and social media. Bag ban opponents are going full throttle on a referendum to reverse the law. They’ve got street teams all over California collecting signatures (they need 500,000 by the year’s end to make it onto the November 2016 ballot) to reverse all the progress our state has already made. Now, there’s a way to stop them. Californians Against Waste is asking people to report signature gathering using this form. Just last week, Save The Bay spotted a paid signature collector in downtown Oakland outside of our local Rite Aid – and we reported him. CAW will then use this information to put bag ban advocates on the ground to counteract opponents’ efforts, hold media stunts, and inform the public as to why the bag ban is crucial for the health and vibrancy of California.

So yes, even though we’ve won the battle against the bags for now, we have to stay on our toes and keep that victory in our grasp. Help send a message to the plastics industry that they are on the wrong side of history and report any paid signature gatherers here.

An Open Letter to Governor Brown

Save The Bay has been working for years to rid San Francisco Bay of plastic bag pollution. This month, we are closer than ever to achieving a statewide bag ban in California. SB 270 has passed the state legislature and is awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. We recently sent this letter calling on the Governor to sign the bill into law. You can do your part by sending a message to Governor Brown today

RE: Support for SB 270 – Solid waste: single-use carryout bags

Dear Governor Brown,

On behalf of Save The Bay’s 60,000 members and supporters throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, we urge you to sign SB 270 (Padilla, De León, and Lara) into law. After eight years of state and local advocacy, this bill has the support of business organizations, industry associations, unions, and environmental organizations across the state. SB 270 will establish a baseline for eliminating plastic bags in jurisdictions that have failed to enact their own local restrictions, moving our state closer to plastic-free shorelines and waterways.  By enacting SB 270, the state would also help 76 Bay Area municipalities to eliminate trash in their stormwater systems by 2022, as required by regional agency permits.

Bay Area communities have supported banning plastic bags since San Francisco became the first U.S. city to do so in 2007. Environmental organizations, solid waste professionals, elected officials, and chambers of commerce have united to craft strong local bag ordinances that reduce pollution of waterways while providing consistency for businesses and residents.  As a result, 76% of Bay Area residents now live in a jurisdiction that has banned plastic bags. SB 270 builds upon these models and the Bay Area’s leadership and will dramatically reduce plastic bag pollution statewide.

Every argument from opponents of plastic bag bans has been disproven by the actual experience of cities and counties that have enacted them. Despite industry advocacy for bag recycling, not one Bay Area jurisdiction has found it to be economically feasible. Fears that bag bans will hurt businesses have proven unfounded, as business owners continue to support regionally consistent policies. Claims that plastic bag pollution is not a problem are disproven every year on Coastal Cleanup Day, as volunteers remove thousands of plastic bags from our creeks and shorelines. Marine debris starts on land, and California has the obligation and opportunity to decrease its contribution of plastic trash to our oceans.

California is being hailed as a leader for taking action against single-use plastic bags and the degradation they cause in California’s waterways. Please implement this groundbreaking policy by signing SB 270 into law.


David Lewis
Executive Director

Walnut Creek takes the lead

Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes before being discarded.

On Tuesday night, the city of Walnut Creek adopted one of the strongest plastic bag bans in the San Francisco Bay Area. Voting 4-1, the city council passed an ordinance that will ban plastic bags and establish a minimum charge of 10 cents for a paper bag. Bring your own bag and you will not be charged. Not only does this ban apply to all types of stores in the city, it also applies to restaurants. The Bay does not differentiate between a bag from a grocery store and one from a restaurant – by applying the ordinance broadly, Walnut Creek is stopping plastic bag litter at the source, before it becomes Bay trash.

Four other cities in Contra Costa County have passed bag bans, but Walnut Creek is the only one – so far – that covers restaurants. We are calling upon the rest of Contra Costa to follow in Walnut Creek’s footsteps and pass comprehensive bans. With over 60 plastic bag bans in the Bay Area, we are getting close to eliminating this wasteful product from our region and protecting our creeks and the Bay from plastic pollution. Plastic in our waterways is not just an eyesore – studies have shown that plastic absorbs pollutants from the water it’s floating in, becoming even more dangerous and toxic to wildlife as time goes on.

We won’t let the momentum stop here, so stay tuned for more news on bag bans in Contra Costa County. 

Wine country just became more sustainable

Sonoma County has banned plastic bags!

Sonoma County and its cities join 49 other Bay Area jurisdictions in banning plastic bags.
Sonoma County and its cities join 49 other Bay Area jurisdictions in banning plastic bags.

On Wednesday, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency voted to ban plastic bags throughout the county.  The ban will apply to every city except Santa Rosa, which opted out of the countywide ordinance.  Not to worry,  the council has pledged to promptly adopt their own ban which mirrors the rest of the county.  What this means is that flimsy, plastic carryout bags will be eliminated from every store in the county – a huge win for Sonoma County’s creeks and the Bay.

This ordinance has been 3 years in the making, so we are very excited to see the region step up its efforts to keep plastic trash out of the Bay.  Although several Sonoma County cities do not touch the Bay, many of their waterways flow into it, carrying trash and other pollution from our communities.  Every city in the Bay Area – with our without shorelines – has a responsibility to protect the Bay from pollution.

Congratulations to Sonoma County for joining 49 other jurisdictions in the Bay Area in kicking the bag habit!

Weekly roundup: January 10, 2014

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

7X7 1/4/14
The ultimate Sunday hike: The Albany bulb
Urban wasteland or artistic expression? Visit the Albany Waterfront Trail (aka the Albany Bulb) and decide for yourself. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a unique and eclectic place for exploration, contemplation and human observation. It’s also a great place to walk your dog and experience some of the most fabulous water-level views to be had in the Bay Area.
Read more>>

weekly roundup

San Francisco Chronicle 1/5/14
Appeals court upholds S.F. plastic bag ban as precedent
In the latest legal setback for plastic-bag makers, a state appeals court has issued a ruling upholding San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic bags as a precedent for future cases.
Read more>>

San Jose Mercury News 1/6/14
Made up names doom San Jose ballot measure to overturn Styrofoam ban
The contentious drive to overturn San Jose’s ban on Styrofoam containers has failed after elections officials found more than half the signatures gathered to place the issue before voters were bogus — and many were just made up.
Read more>>

San Jose Mercury News 1/7/14
Editorial: Polystyrene foam ban stands in San Jose. Yay!
It’s tempting to lose faith in democracy when it seems like money is the only thing that talks. Then something happens — like the failure of the sleazy attempt to repeal San Jose’s ban on polystyrene foam food containers — that restores some faith in the system.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 1/9/14
They’re back – the Bay’s herring hordes return
Sea lions, porpoises and tens of thousands of birds are jockeying for position with fishermen this week as the annual herring run splashes into San Francisco Bay, a spectacular marine wildlife showcase that conservationists say is one of the largest in North America.
Read more>>

The Almanac 1/7/14
Can we rise to the challenge of rising sea levels?
Imagine a darkened bedroom around midnight. You’re lying there in the silence waiting for sleep to come. From the direction of the closet comes a soft scuffling noise. Curious and maybe a bit alarmed, you sit up, but carefully; you don’t want to draw attention to your presence. Holding your breath, you wait, your head at a slight angle, the better to hear whatever it is.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 1/9/14
Six Flags mommy dolphin practices baby whistle
Dolphins are known for their exquisite communication skills, but a late-term, pregnant dolphin at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo may be one of the first discovered vocalizing to her unborn baby.
Bella, a 9-year-old bottlenose, caused a double-take among her trainers a few months ago when they discovered her alone in a pool vocalizing her “baby whistle” – an individual sound that every mother dolphin uses to call her calf immediately after birth.
Read more>>