Environmentalists and bag ban advocates are cheering at the news that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a plastic bag bill yesterday.
SB 3442, while mandating an overall increase of less than 1% in plastic film recycling rates, would also have removed local power to ban plastic bags in Illinois.
The bill appears to be a ploy to stop local bag bans while pretending to address the plastic bag issue with recycling. But plastic bag recycling doesn’t work, failing to reach double digit recycling rates even in CA where a statewide program has been in place since 2007, and where local governments have shown that plastic bags and film lead to expensive recycling machine repairs and have low market value.
C4R, along with other environmental groups and activists, were quick to point out the bill’s flaws. One young activist in particular who wanted to pass a bag ban in her Illinois town brought the issue into the spotlight with her online petition. Abby Goldberg’s “Don’t let Big Plastic Bully me” petition gathered more than 170,000 signatures to the Governor requesting his veto.
According to NBC, Governor Quinn said in a statement,
CALLING ALL ILLINOIS RESIDENTS!
There's only 8 days left to contact Governor Quinn and urge him to veto SB 3442, the bill that would prevent local governments in Illinois from banning plastic bags!
Take a few seconds and email the Governor here, or call his office directly at 217-782-0244 (Springfield office) or 312-814-2121 (Chicago office) and say "Please veto SB 3442 and find meaningful ways to address plastic bag litter."
Governor Quinn has until August 28 to make a decision on this bill. Don't wait any longer to ask him to veto the bill! If you don't live in Illinois, pass this along to your friends and family who are IL residents.
SB 3442 requires a minimal plastic bag recycling rate and would prohibit local governments from passing ordinances on plastic bags.
Hermosa Beach is joining the fight against expanded polystyrene litter.
On Tuesday the City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance banning foam food containers at restaurants and other food vendor locations.
Final adoption of the ordinance is expected September 11. The ban goes into effect 180 days after the adoption.
According to the Daily Breeze, Council Member Pete Tucker said, "We're not asking for manufacturers to invent some type of new packaging. It's already on the shelf, it's already there. It's the right thing to do."
Sustainable alternatives on the market include food containers made from corn and sugar cane.
Congratulations to Hermosa Beach for its environmental leadership.
According to the US EPA, polystyrene is recycled at 4 percent nationwide. This rate includes both foamed and non foam polystyrene.
Foam food containers in particular are difficult to recycle due to contamination issues, and the cost to prepare the material for recycling exceeds the market price. According to one recycler, it costs $42 to prepare 100 pounds of expanded polystyrene for recycling, which is then sold for no more than $25.
(photo courtesy of Team Marine)
Beginning this September, Portland schools are making lunch a little more eco-conscious by getting rid of its polystyrene lunch trays. After the success of district-wide recycling programs in Portland schools saved about $50,000 in waste fees, Superintendent James Morse plans to spend those savings on ongoing waste reduction efforts this fall.
Every year the school system uses 450,000 single-use lunch trays and because of the nature of the material, the trays just end up at the landfill. But students will be starting the 2012-2013 school year with paperboard trays, which are made in state, and eventually transitioning to reusable trays.
Portland’s school districts have so far diverted 30 tons of food waste in the last school year alone and the ban on foam trays will be will make the schools even greener.
Supporter of the polystyrene lunch tray ban and parent, Martha Sheils, was one of the first people to speak with the superintendent about starting a recycling program in the schools and feels that using sustainable products and disposing of waste wisely can have a great positive impact on the next generation:
August 1 marks the first day for Bellingham, WA's bag ban. The city adopted an ordinance banning plastic bags and placing a five cent charge per paper bag last July.
Since Bellingham's adoption, three other cities in Washington State have passed similar ordinances, including Seattle.
Seattle had previously adopted a 20 cent charge per grocery bag a few years earlier, which was rescinded by voters after heavy lobbying from the plastics industry. The ordinance modeled after Bellingham's ordinance succesfully went into effect in Seattle last month.
To prepare for ordinance implementation, the city of Bellingham has already sent out 1,500 letters to businesses in the last few weeks. Although there will be an initial learning curve in Bellingham, based on the experience in dozens of other jurisdictions nationwide with plastic bag bans, residents should adjust quickly.
The 2012 Summer Olympics made history before the start of any of its athletic competitions.
The Olympics kicked off in London last Friday with an impressive opening ceremony, and Olympians have been fighting to get on the podium ever since.
But behind the scenes the organizers hope to also reach some high goals. The London Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee (LOCOG) is aiming for zero waste during the events, and according to this article, has set an overall 70% waste diversion goal.
LOCOG has eliminated plastic bags from its shops--making it the first Olympics to be plastic bag free.
"London 2012 is the first Games to not use any single-use or short-life disposable bags. All the bags we provide at the games will be reusable for multiple occasions and we believe that by focusing on reducing unnecessary bag usage, encouraging re-use and providing clear information about recycling, we have found the most sustainable and practical solution."
Environmental groups sent a letter asking that visitors and participants in the Olympic games refuse other plastic bags where offered.
Keeping in line with the waste diversion goals, Olympic Park's largest fast food chain, McDonald's, will also be using cutlery, cups, lids, and straws made from a compostable plastic.
In the first study of its kind, a group of researchers will survey the amount of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes throughout the month of July. The project is headed by Professor Sherri “Sam” Mason of SUNY Fredonia, a liberal arts college in New York, who found that despite being the largest fresh water system in the world, the Great Lakes had never been studied for plastics.
Read the full article HERE
An estimated 35 million people live in proximity to the Great Lakes and Mason predicted those numbers would translate to significant plastic pollution levels.
The three week project is a joint effort between SUNY Fredonia and the 5 Gyres Institute, a plastic pollution research and education group. In addition to measuring the amount of micro plastics in three of the five lakes, the study will also examine the quantity of plastic being ingested by fish. Communication Director for 5 Gyres, Stiv Wilson, states that:
After a six month trial period the City of Bisbee decided this past week to continue its plastic bag reduction program.
The city is the first in Arizona aimed at single-use bag waste.
Lying right along the southern border of Arizona, Bisbee enacted the program when it felt that plastic bag pollution was blighting its otherwise picturesque community.
With the advice of the City Manager, the Bisbee City Council has decided to continue the existing program into January of 2013 in lieu of a mandatory plastic bag fee. If the trial period does not produce the desired results, the city may implement a three phase ban of single-use plastic bags.
The ban would first add a 5 cent charge for bags sold in retailers making more than $1 million annually and gradually the ban would include businesses making more than $250,000 and eventually all retailers.
The voluntary reductions were enacted as a joint effort between retailers and the city to educate children, supermarket staff, and the community as a whole about how to cut back on their plastic bag use.
Headed by Arizona Food Marketing Alliance (AFMA), reductions were encouraged by putting up educational signs in parking lots and grocery stores and also with a plastic bag collecting competition at Greenway Elementary School.
Will Houston be the next American city to ban the plastic bag? Maybe. In a city council budget meeting, council member Ed Gonzales proposed a plastic bag ban as a way to save the city thousands of dollars in litter clean up.
If Houston does choose to ban plastic bags, the city will have plenty of Texan company. Brownsville and South Padre Island have already banned plastic bags and Austin's double bag ban becomes operative next March.
Although getting rid of plastic bags makes financial sense for the city, getting approval from Houstonians may not be so easy. Local reporter Edel Howlin went to a Houston grocery store to gauge how residents would react to a bag ban and opinions were polarized on both sides. Victor Charles abhorred the ban and wanted no part in it:
Everything’s plastic today. Why don’t they outlaw the plastic items on a car while they’re at it? I mean, where do they stop, take my pen from me too?
However, Mitzie Scott was ecstatic about the idea:
I don’t know why we didn’t do it before. It’s just not necessary and every time I see one hanging in a tree I think how sad and there are other ways to do it.
In Brownsville, Texas, a ban on plastic bags has been going on for almost a year and a half now. Public Health Director for Brownsville, Arturo Rodriguez, says support has grown since residents saw how much plastic litter was reduced following the phase out of single use plastic bags.
Many of us don't think twice when we grab an extra plastic bag at the checkout line, but plastic bags have a disproportionate impact on our waste stream and environment and can take up to hundreds of years to degrade. In Massachusetts, legislators are working on a bill that would remove single use plastic bags at retail locations.
The bill, S.353, was amended on the 20th of last month and calls for the use of either compostable plastic bags (defined by ASTM standards) or reusable bags. It applys to retail stores with over 4,000 square feet. This action against plastic bag pollution follows in the footsteps of local plastic bag bans implemented in San Francisco, Los Angeles County, and Seattle.
Plastic bags have a huge impact on marine life such as turtles, whales, and fish, who mistake the plastic bags for food or become fatally entangled in them. The author of this bill, Senator James Eldridge, notes that of the 380 billion plastic bags used by Americans each year, only 5% ever get recycled.
Bill S.353 is currently in the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means waiting on financial review.
Hawaii banned bags statewide under local ordinances, but a statewide bag ban has yet to be passed in any State Legislature.