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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Sacking the Plastic Sack

Published 08/15/08
By Barbara Schmitz, Senior Program Associate

I discovered during a recent phone call with my sister that, sometimes, genetics overrides social norms. Despite living on opposite coasts — my sister lives in Maryland and I live in California — my sister and I have each developed an unusual habit: We pick up trash. We are not the folks who are paid, professional waste collectors. Instead, we are a bit more targeted in our refuse pick-up.

After learning separately that certain litter is lethal to wild birds and animals, our individual reflexes kicked in and we reacted instinctively by taking action. No longer does a plastic six-pack yoke lie on the sidewalk if either of us walks by. It’s snatched up, cut into bits, and disposed of promptly. And scary plastic bags left to blow in the wind? No way. Just wait until we get our hands on them.

Each year marine mammals, birds, and fish become victims of our disposable waste. Dolphins swallow plastic bags and suffocate. Birds dive through six-pack rings and strangle. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite food sources. There are estimates that plastic debris kills 1 million seabirds and 100,000 other animals worldwide each year. According to some experts, cleaning up the seas soon will be one of the most pressing environmental issues.

But I was excited to read that California is working to find a solution. The state Ocean Protection Council is considering pushing a ban on plastic bags in California. They’re going to decide whether or not to pursue this in the coming weeks. If so, California could be the first state to take such a decisive step.

But we’ve been building up to it. San Francisco and Los Angeles have adopted measures to severely restrict plastic bags, and San Jose officials are currently working to phase them out. (Plastic bag use in Ireland plunged 95% after Ireland adopted a tax on them. Yayy!)

But the reality is that there are forces actively working against the California proposal. So, you have a chance to weigh in. If you want to support the state agency’s plan to try to ban plastic bags, then get your pen (or keyboard) ready. Write by August 21, 2008 to:

Rachel Couch
Ocean Protection Council Project Manager
Coastal Conservancy
1330 Broadway, Suite 1300
Oakland, CA 94612
rcouch@scc.ca.gov

Imagine it — if this ban is put into place, birds, turtles, and other sea creatures would breathe a huge sigh of relief ... and I’d have some free time on my hands.

Blogging off,

Barbara

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