Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Dec 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Plastic Debate

altPart one in a four part series looking at the discourse surrounding the plastic bag bans

Most Americans have stood in line at a grocery store at least once in their lifetime. Their week’s food or evening’s dinner sits on the conveyer belt and the grocery store clerk asks that famous question: “paper or plastic?” But this question, which once was spoken in any store in any given city, is now changing due to the push from many environmental groups and activists to ban single-use plastic bags.

The plastic bag debate has been a hot topic since the 2007 ban in San Francisco. After San Francisco legislation implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags at supermarket chains, as well as large pharmacies, Oakland followed, and then Santa Monica, Palo Alto, Long Beach, and San Jose. Santa Cruz County was among several other jurisdictions in California to adopt a single-use plastic bag ban this year. Passed by the Board of Supervisors in September, the local law holds the title of the strictest plastic and paper bag law in California. In addition to banning plastic bags at grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores, it implemented a fee for paper bags.

It is estimated that more than 100 billion petroleum-based plastic single-use bags are used each year in the United States, and that American businesses spend about $4 billion per year purchasing them for their customers. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the plastic industry is vigorously fighting back against the anti-plastic movement. As a graduate student at San Francisco State University studying discourse that fuels social movements, I am taking the plastic bag debate a step further. For my final paper for my graduate seminar Communication and Social Criticism, I have written a rhetorical analysis that focuses on both sides of the plastic debate. I am looking at rhetorical strategies from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Society of Plastic Industry (SPI), Save the Bay, and The Surfrider Foundation in their arguments surrounding a ban on single-use plastic bags.

In this linguistic examination I discuss how plastic corporations are responding to the efforts of environmental groups and anti-plastic activists across the State of California to create a world without single-use plastic bags. I look at the arguments from both sides of the debate, analyzing their rhetoric and how they use images, slogans, and facts to persuade the public as to which side of the debate they should side with. By looking at the plastic industry’s discourse we can see how this multi-billion dollar industry is responding to the movement.

In my next three blog entries I will share my findings from this rhetorical analysis. By looking through a critical lens I will be able to examine how persuasion can be used successfully in order to construct arguments and counter-arguments. The ways in which we communicate affect our perception of the natural world and by critically analyzing the dialogue used by each side we, as community members, can gain a new insight into this present-day debate.


Jamie Foster is a second year graduate student in communication studies at San Francisco State University, where she is currently studying the discourse used within the plastic bag debate and how each side—plastic corporations and environmental groups—construct their arguments. Good Times will be host to four blogs by Jamie about this subject. If you would like to see a complete version of her paper or have any questions please email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Comments (3)Add Comment
...
written by Stiv Wilson, December 04, 2011
Oh boy, we're in for a treat.
...
written by Eco Real, December 04, 2011
Once again, the liberal mindset is trying to kill an ant with a sledge hammer. I guess every five years a cause must be championed. Let's look at this in perspective. As I young person in the 60's a main issue was overpopulation. We were brainwashed into the "zero population" move. No more than two children. What happened to that movement which I would deem 1,000 times more important than plastic bags and of course it is directly related to plastic bags and hundreds of other "e" concerns. Has anyone mentioned Huggies and Pampers? Has anyone addressed the fact that the average Hispanic family in our county has 4 children? What about the doggie poo plastic gloves everywhere...not to mention the doggie pooh itself. Everyone's afraid of addressing the core issue of too many people. It's the political third rail. Until then, I will enjoy my plastic sandwich bags as I have for 40 years.
...
written by Sean Campbell, December 03, 2011
A very interesting subject. I am looking forward to your next blog posts. :)

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire