Our Chance to Uphold California’s Bag Ban

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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.

Weekly Round-Up November 8, 2013

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

Napa Valley Register 11/3/13
County Pushes Fish and Wildlife to Help Improve Airport Safety
Napa County is lobbying the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to improve a small area next to the Napa County Airport to improve safety for aircraft and also allow another segment of the Bay Trail to be built.
Public Works Director Steve Lederer sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham last month urging the work — part of a 2005 permit from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) — to be completed as soon as possible.
Read more>>

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Contra Costa Times 11/1/13
Martinez Considers Banning Plastic Bags, Foam Take-out Containers
Martinez may join the growing list of California cities that ban plastic shopping bags and polystyrene foam food and drink containers.
Modeled in part on the ordinance Pittsburg adopted last month, city staffers have proposed prohibiting distribution of single-use plastic bags by commercial and retail businesses including grocery, liquor, clothing, convenience and book stores
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 11/5/13
Bay Trail Vision at Work at Carquinez Shoreline
A trail project along Carquinez Strait will provide a missing link for the Bay Trail, and with it, a restored route with sensational views for people who walk, hike, bike or run.
The route runs along along an abandoned roadway set into the cliffs west of Martinez that had been closed due to erosion, rockslides and holes, cracks and crevices in the pavement.
Construction crews placed fencing at both ends of a 1.7-mile project along Carquinez Scenic Drive. When work is complete, the route will provide a trail link from Carquinez to Crockett. The trail segment will be closed for about two years for public safety, according to the East Bay Regional Park District.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 11/8/13
Annual Migration Slow to Arrive in Central Valley
In the Bay Area, wetlands provide habitat for roughly 1.6 million shorebirds in winter. Of dozens of marshes and wetlands, the best for sightings are often Napa-Sonoma Marsh at high and outgoing tides by kayak, and at low tide at Hayward Regional Shoreline, Bothin Marsh in Sausalito, Don Edward San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Newark and the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve.
Read more>>

KQED Science 11/6/13
Baylands Nature Preserve a Winter Birders Wonderland
Described by bird watchers as the go-to place for the “best birding on the bay,” the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is a feather-filled oasis during winter. This is the time that waterfowl migrate through the Pacific Flyway and settle along the California coast for the season.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 11/8/13
Google Barge Mystery Unfurled
The barge portion of the Google barge mystery is only half the story – when completed, the full package is envisioned to be an “unprecedented artistic structure,” sporting a dozen or so gigantic sails, to be moored for a month at a time at sites around the bay.
Documents submitted to the Port of San Francisco show that the barge’s creators have big plans for the bulky box now docked at Treasure Island.
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Audublog 10/31/13
Keeping Watch Over Brown Pelicans
The Brown Pelican is California’s iconic coastal bird and one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act. While pelicans have dramatically recovered in the last 30 years, they have since suffered unprecedented breeding failures and starvation events in California and Oregon, likely due to poor availability of prey. Audubon California is leading a set of concerned groups urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete key tasks required under the Endangered Species Act in order to secure the future of these beloved birds.
Read more>>