From the Sonoma County Peace Press, March, 2011
Approximately 25% of all the people on Earth now live in localities with bans on single-use plastic bag. From Botswana and China to Italy and Brownsville, Texas, what seemed a radical move when San Francisco began their process more than six years ago to pass the ordinance in 2007 transitions to matter-of-fact in 2011. San Jose and Calabas, California and the counties of Marin and Los Angeles, have all adopted bag ban ordinances in the past several months as the plastic-free wave swells.
According to Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics Campaign, globally we use about one million plastic bags a minute. In California, we use an average of 766 disposable plastic bags per person per year. Evidence of environmental fallout is overwhelming. A free public forum investigating single-use bags in Sonoma County was held on February 2 at the Santa Rosa City Hall to explore this very issue.
Sponsored by North Bay Corporation, the well-represented six person panel shared facts, issues and opportunities facing the county with new Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire deftly moderating. The forum was put on by the locally-based organization, ReduceSingleUse.org, and there were over 100 in attendance, including many elected representatives.
Panelists from Kevin Drew, of the Department of the Environment in San Francisco to Robert Bateman of Roplast Industries, a plastic bag manufacturing company, all agreed on the need to address plastic and paper bag usage. While the general focus of bans around the country and the world has been plastic bags, paper featured largely in this discussion as equally environmentally harmful. Keynote speaker Carol Misseldine of Green Cities California urged us to include a fee on paper bags in any proposed ordinance in order to reimburse stores for increased costs and to compel shoppers to shift to reusable bags.
The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency has been considering a ban for two years and Patrick Carter, a waste management specialist with the agency, presented reports from his long research that contributed to evidence of the need to draft such an ordinance. Marin County passed their own on January 25 in the face of a threat from the American Chemistry Council, representing the plastic bag industry. Marin Supervisor Charles McGlashan, at the February 2 forum, said, “Bring it on,” as his board voted in favor, despite full knowledge of the possibility.
Related issues include plastic produce bags and while proposed legislation does not tackle that single-use bag reliance, there is of course the capacity in every shopper to make significant shifts toward cloth options or plastic bag re-use as the granola bulk bag remains the granola bulk bin bag, twist tie and all. What can we re-use? Only 21 days to a new habit and then it’s all natural! On websites like Green Sangha, My Plastic-Free Life and ReduceSingleUse.org, there are myriad suggestions and solutions to plastics reliance.
Mary Munat, member of the Rethinking Plastics Campaign and chair of the newly formed ReduceSingleuse.org campaign, shared at the forum some next steps for pro-active individual shift, including news for how to live life with far less plastics, and proposals to help our decision-makers move forward. There is a strategy committee amongst the all-volunteer group currently that seeks an influx of ideas and energy as they prepare a two-pronged approach, trusting that Plan A goes off without a hitch and the SCWMA drafts an bag ordinance that would encompass the whole county.
The forum, with additional sponsorship by Global Materials Recovery Services, Sonoma Compost, and Mike McGuire, is being rebroadcast, thanks to the Community Media Center. Further information can be found at www.reducesingleuse.org, including relevant news about bag bans and the thriving trends of reuse and increased environmental responsibility.
Mary Munat, owner of Green Mary, works with Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics Campaign to reduce plastics consumption across the board, and thrives on sharing around all matters pertaining to environmental accountability. She and other RPC and ReduceSingleUse.org members are available for presentations.