Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Apr 24th
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

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise