Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Dec 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Bag Lag

news_2seabagThe Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance pressures local government to adopt a single-use plastic bag ban
Nature photographer Terry McCormac recently had a typical day photographing a mother and baby sea otter near Moss Landing take a turn for the worse when the playful otter pup found itself trapped inside a plastic shopping bag.

“The baby got all panicky and started screaming,” McCormac remembers. “Then the mom started screaming. The mom went over there and got [the baby] on its chest and was trying to pull it off. Neither of them knew what to do. It was very heart wrenching.”

Helpless, McCormac continued to snap photos. The distressed mother and baby disappeared behind a boat, and then reappeared without the plastic bag. McCormac was relieved the otter pup’s misadventure had a happy ending, but he was determined to use the photo to help fight against plastic bag pollution in the ocean.

“Single-use plastic bags or take-out bags are an incredible and well-documented hazard to the health of many sea creatures—mammals, fish, and seabirds, especially, because in the marine environment they look like floating food to many species,” confirms Jim Littlefield, co-vice chair of the Santa Cruz chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Protecting endangered species from ocean-borne plastic bags is just one of many reasons 26 local environmental organizations, including Surfrider, have banded together to promote a county-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. Together, the groups form the Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance.

Lauren Gilligan, program coordinator at Save Our Shores, was unsurprised to receive Cormac’s photograph of the mother otter cradling her plastic wrapped pup.

“Since 2007, [Save Our Shores volunteers have] removed over 25,000 single use plastic bags from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties,” says Gilligan. “It’s definitely a huge problem.”

Plastic is considered harmful to the environment because it photodegrades, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces in sunlight and becoming part of the food chain, but never truly disappearing.

In a town hall style meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 26, representatives from the Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works and Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance shared a proposal to ban single use plastic bags in Santa Cruz County. The meeting was designed to give the public input on the proposed ordinance before it is to be voted on by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, most likely in March or April. The single-use plastic bag ban would affect the unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County. Similar regulations are being reviewed by the cities of Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Watsonville and Capitola.

At the meeting, concerns voiced by the public ranged from how the ordinance would affect gift shop owners to the effects an increase in paper bag production might have on marine life.

For a place with a reputation for environmental activism, Santa Cruz County is lagging behind a national and international movement to ban single-use plastic bags.

San Francisco, San Jose, Marin County and most recently Santa Monica have all banned single-use plastic bags. Each city is also charging a small fee for paper bags to encourage consumers to use reusable bags. These California cities are joining an international trend that includes parts of Europe, Africa and Australia. Travelers to Tanzania beware—getting caught with a single-use plastic bag could mean a six month jail sentence or a stiff $2,000 fine.

In Santa Cruz County, local grocery stores are taking matters into their own hands and leading by example. Whole Foods, Staff of Life, Shopper’s Corner, Trader Joe’s and New Leaf Community Markets stock only paper bags and offer incentives to customers who bring their own bags. Since 1993, New Leaf has been encouraging customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags through their Envirotoken Program.

“Our goal is to not give out bags at all and encourage reusable bags,” says Sarah Owens, marketing director for New Leaf. “Through our Envirotoken program, we’ve definitely saved a ton of trees and donated a lot of money to local nonprofits working for the environment.”

The paper versus plastic debate has been raging for decades. Single-use plastic bags were originally introduced in the 1970s as an environmentally friendly alternative to paper bags, which consume trees, energy, and produce toxic effluent. Although both paper and plastic bags are recyclable, only 5 to 10 percent of plastic bags are recycled in California, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The bags are notorious for clogging recycling machines.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents 80 percent of U.S. companies that make plastic bags, is the major obstacle standing in the way of U.S. cities that attempt to ban single-use plastic bags. The American Chemistry Council has sued several California cities, including Oakland and San Jose, on the basis that these cities did not prepare Environmental Impact Reviews before enacting a plastic bag ban.

In Santa Cruz County, an Environmental Impact Review is already under way.

“The intent isn’t just to prevent us from being sued,’’ said Tim Goncharoff, a planner for the Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works. “It’s to analyze what the environmental impacts might be for better or for worse, and to address them.”

The proposed single-use plastic bag ban in Santa Cruz County will also include a $.10 fee on paper bags, which will eventually rise to $.25, to discourage use of paper bags and encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags. Retailers will keep all of the profits from the paper bag fee. 

Comments (1)Add Comment
I Shall Cry Now!
written by Vern Foske, February 02, 2011
Sentimentalism and Anthropomorphism to sell this dubious concept just to make us caring white liberals feel good. "Single Use" plastic bag ban is not attacking the real problem of over-packaging and use of plastics in nearly all our products. Banning these multi-used "single-use" bags will cause heavier and larger plastic bags to be used, which will send the wrong message to the industry of providing more product and add significantly more to this dilemma. I'm still waiting to be convinced why using CFLs (which contain mercury, and are not easily recycled) are much better for our environment.

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