Sunnyvale residents advocating for a plastic-free California

Murphy Street Farmers Market
In Sunnyvale, using reusable bags has turned into a lifestyle rather than just a policy. Photo: Vivian Reed

Present-day Sunnyvale, California is known as “The Heart of Silicon Valley,” but if you walk into any grocery store or stroll through the downtown farmer’s market in this tech town you’ll notice another trend: people carry reusable bags when shopping.

Four years ago, my hometown hopped on the bag ban-wagon, joining our region’s largest cities including San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose in working to address the Bay’s pollution problem.

Before Sunnyvale’s plastic bag ban went into effect in early June 2012, storefronts around town posted signs that read “Did you bring your reusable bags?”

To me this message was more than a friendly reminder—it revealed the city’s commitment to sustainability and curbing urban pollution.

Jessica Aronson supports Prop. 67. because it is the next step to saving our beautiful state.
Jessica Aronson supports Prop. 67. because it is the next step to saving our beautiful state.

My friends and Sunnyvale natives Jessica Aronson and Justin Matsuura were also thrilled about the new change and viewed this ordinance as a natural next step in ensuring a plastic-free California.

Unfortunately, ridding our state of this toxic non-biodegradable trash has turned into a drawn-out multiyear dogfight between California and out-of-state polluters.

So why are Californians forced to decide on a statewide plastic bag ban, again? The answer is simple: the Plastic Bag Industry cares more about making green than going green. That’s why there are two propositions on the November 2016 ballot about the same issue: Proposition 65 and Proposition 67.

Big Plastic has spent millions to fool voters into supporting Prop 65—a very regressive and disingenuous measure that would repeal the state’s existing ban approved by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014.

“It’s so frustrating that we have to fight so hard to protect our planet,” says Aronson. Keeping the bag ban to prevent toxic waste from building up around our homes and in our waterways seems like common sense.”

Having lived in an area where bags are banned, my friends and I know firsthand that transitioning to life without plastic bags is a natural adjustment that also makes you feel good.

On occasion store clerks have thanked and complimented Justin Matsuura for bringing his reusable bags to the store.
Store clerks have thanked and complimented Justin Matsuura for bringing his reusable bags to the store.

“I do feel better about the environment and myself when I pull out my reusable bags instead of using plastic bags,” says Matsuura. “Sometimes it even turns into a conversation starter!”

The simple act of bringing a reusable bag to the store quickly becomes second nature, making the experience of going to a store in a community where disposable bags are still legally distributed feel jarring.

“Traveling to areas without the ban seem bizarre.” Aronson explains, “It reminds me of how much waste people are still creating with single-use bags.”

In the years following the Sunnyvale Bag Ban, hardly any signs reminding shoppers to bring their reusable bags remain. And honestly, there is no real need for them anymore.

More importantly, this local ban has turned plastic bag litter into a problem of the past. A recent study reveals a 100% reduction in the number of single use plastic bags found in municipal trash capture devices. This is good news because stormwater is the largest source of pollution in San Francisco Bay.

Proposition 67 would allow cities throughout California to achieve similar victories in reducing plastic bag pollution. Matsuura believes this initiative will “keep our state trending in renewable, recyclable, and sustainable practices for our future.”

As Californians, we all favor policies that protect the environment and inspire sustainable choices. We also believe that intentionally destroying our environment for financial gain is not okay. That’s why our state’s most credible editorial boards, elected officials, and environmental leaders and organizations including Save The Bay vehemently oppose Proposition 65 and support Prop 67.

Join Jessica, Justin, and me next week in voting for a plastic-free California. It’s time to put the Golden State back on the map as an environmental leader invested not in financial gain, but in preserving this place we call home.

Vote YES on Prop 67 and No on Prop 65 on Nov. 8.

Photo: Vivian Reed


Learn more about the California Bag Ban on Save The Bay’s blog:

Op-Ed: Prop 67 bag ban stakes are global

Bigger than the Bag: the true promise of a state bag ban

Don’t be fooled by Prop 65


 

Humans of the Bay for Prop 67

Bodie3 (800x450)
Bodie, my 8-month-old golden retriever, is pictured here during our walk at Ocean Beach.

My YES vote on Prop 67 will be for both Bodie and I.

Bodie is my 8-month-old golden retriever who, as you can imagine, likes to put anything and everything in his mouth.

Bodie2 (600x800) Toxic trash and plastic bag pollution are forever changing the landscape of the places Bodie and I once loved to escape to.
Toxic trash and plastic bag pollution are forever changing the landscape of the places Bodie and I once loved to escape to.

I love taking my puppy for walks along the scenic Bay Trail and out at Ocean Beach. Both places have always served as a magical place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. But the other day, I was brought back down to earth by the harsh reality that toxic trash and plastic bag pollution have forever changed the landscape of these places Bodie and I once loved to escape to.
Like most puppies, he likes to pick up everything off the ground from dirty socks to plastic bags and food wrappers despite my best efforts to keep a watchful eye on him. I support Prop 67 to ban plastic bags, not just because there will be less trash on the beach for my dog to eat and I won’t have to pull plastic trash out his mouth every 15 feet. It’s also because seabirds and marine mammals don’t have anyone there for every step of those 15 feet to watch over them, and to stop them from eating plastic bags. They often mistake plastic bags for nutritious food sources like jelly fish and are entangled, suffocated, or poisoned by toxic trash.

They, and Bodie, are relying on us Humans of the Bay to speak up for them.

By banning plastic bags in California we can drastically reduce the amount of plastic trash polluting our waterways and poisoning marine life. I am voting YES on Prop 67 to sustain the beauty of the San Francisco Bay and its wildlife for future generations. The passage of this important environmental legislation will hopefully influence other states to pass statewide bans as well.

But don’t just take my word for it, or even Bodie’s.  Listen to the reasons other Humans of the Bay for Prop 67 are stepping up in support of banning plastic bags in California.

 

 

Humans of the Bay
Click to view more Humans of the Bay for Prop 67.

Join me and the many other Humans of the Bay in voting YES on Prop 67 and NO on Prop 65 to uphold the statewide ban of plastic bags.

We need your help: Take our plastic bag ban survey

We’re gearing up for a big new fight against polluters. We know we’ll be outspent, but we think we can win if we play it smart. Can you help by sharing a few quick thoughts?

We’ve put together a brief survey, and your answers will help us shape our campaign. It will take less than 5 minutes. We really need your input. Thank you in advance!

You can take the plastic bag ban survey here:

Our Chance to Uphold California’s Bag Ban

plastic-bag

In 2014 something incredible happened: Californian legislators, environmentalists, community groups, labor unions, and business groups all came together to pass a piece of environmental legislation to ban single use plastic shopping bags. Unfortunately the state law, SB 270, which would have prohibited all grocery stores in California from giving away the often littered, unrecyclable plastic bags, never got the chance to be effective. The out-of-state plastics manufacturers who opposed it spent over 7 million dollars to keep it from ever being implemented. They have tried to stop the ban from taking effect for years, but this November, Californians will have the chance to vote yes to uphold this first-of-its-kind legislation in order to reduce plastic trash throughout California and prevent out-of-state industry from setting state policy in our state.

How did we end up here?

We should have had a state wide bag ban for nearly a year now–SB 270 was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2014 and was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2015. Though there had been previous attempts to ban bags at the state level, the 2014 law passed largely because of the example set by highly successful bag bans here in the Bay Area and stronger legislative leadership. The 2014 bag ban had the support of lawmakers from all around the state including every Bay Area Legislator, but wealthy plastics manufacturers from out of state spent millions of dollars to collect signatures for a referendum. Once the plastics industry’s referendum qualified in early 2015, implementation of the bag ban was put on hold.

So even though a statewide bag ban was supported by cities and organizations throughout California, passed by the legislature, and signed by Governor Brown, there are still plastic bags being handed out – ready to blow or float into our waterways and ocean – at stores all around the state.

Local bans paved the way for statewide action

Over 80% of Bay Area residents live in a city or county that has banned plastic bags. Cities across the Bay Area have reported that bag bans are a highly effective way to prevent this plastic trash from entering our environment and endangering fish and wildlife. We know how important bag bans are, which is why it is vital that we all vote YES in November to uphold the bag ban. SB 270 succeeded in the first place, unlike the many bag bills that failed before it, because of political will and popular approval established by the groundbreaking laws here in the Bay Area.

Challenges ahead, but we have the power

To date, out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers have spent over $7 million fighting this law because a statewide ban in California will be a model for the rest of the country. But by blocking our hard-fought policy, bag manufacturers are asking us to pay for the damage done to our environment by their flimsy, throwaway product. We cannot let their greedy interests pollute our waterways and trash our communities. Here are a couple things to keep in mind between now and November, when we will all have a chance to vote YES on the bag ban:

  • The November ballot will be a long one and the bag ban will be somewhere in the middle. Make sure you sign up for our email updates to find out the proposition number once it is assigned and stay updated on opportunities to help support the ban.
  • Don’t be fooled. The plastics industry will continue spending money on misleading information and scare tactics to confuse voters and turn our attention away from what we already know: bag bans are good for the environment and wildlife, and reusable bags are the best alternative.

We know that California voters care deeply about the health of our oceans, bays, waterways and wildlife. We can’t allow state policy to be dictated by out-of-state corporate greed. Stay tuned for more information about the bag ban and how you can get involved, and start talking to friends and family about this important opportunity in November.