Plastic Litter

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Mar 14 - Boulder CO Bag Ordinance Reduces Plastic and Paper Bag Use

The bag charge enacted in Boulder, CO is already showing signs of success, according to Boulder Weekly.

The ordinance arose from concerns by the residents of Boulder, CO about the negative effects disposable bags had on the economy and environment. In November 2012, the city passed an ordinance that placed a 10 cent charge on both plastic and paper disposable bags. From the 10 cents per bag, 4 cents go to retailers to cover implementation costs, and 6 cents goes to education and outreach about the fee as well as funding a program to provide to provide reusable bags to those disproportionately affected by the fee.

According to the City of Boulder, thanks to the 10 cent charge, grocery store bag use has decreased by 68%, or almost 5 million disposable bags.

It’s great to see single use bag ordinances having success after being implemented. Hopefully Boulder’s success will spur more cities in Colorado and in the nation to pursue their own bag ordinances.

Feb 14 - San Antonio, TX Looks To Reduce Plastic Bag Litter

Like other local governments, the City of San Antonio, Texas, has a problem with plastic bag litter and is now looking to take action.

On February 11, 2014, San Antonio council man Cris Medina proposed that San Antonio reduce or ban plastic bags to decrease the plastic bag litter in the city. In a round table meeting with businesses, councilman Medina talked about ways to reduce single-use plastic bags and move towards more reusable bags.

The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) recently sent out a survey to residents in San Antonio to get a better idea on their thoughts on plastic bags and received over 400 responses to the survey. The survey is open until the end of March 2014. Some important results that came out of the survey so far include:

· 62% said they regularly bring reusable bags when they shop, 35.9% said they don’t
· 88% said they accept the plastic bags stores provide
· 91.7% believe it is somewhat to extremely important for the city to attempt to reduce plastic bags
· 55% are willing to pay a fee for the use of plastic bags, while 66% support an outright ban
· 95.7% believe there is a need to educate citizens about surface water quality

Aug 27 – IL - Governor Vetoes Plastic Bag Recycling Bill

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,

Aug 20 - IL Residents, Tell Your Governor to Veto a Ban on Plastic Bag Bans


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."

We first alerted you about the bill in early May, which passed out of both houses after a revote later that month.

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.

Aug 16 - CA - Hermosa Beach Approves Foam Container Ban

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)


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Aug 3 - Schools in Portland, ME Ban Foam Lunch Trays

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.

Bangor Daily News: Portland schools eliminate styrofoam use after saving $50,000 in new recycling initiative

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:

Aug 1 - WA - "Model" Bag Ban in Bellingham Starts Today

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.

Read an article on the Bellingham bag ban in the Seattle Times.

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.

Listen to a newsclip from the City Council Member, Seth Fleetwood, who championed the bag ban.


Jul 30 - Summer Olympics Aims High: No Plastic Bags and Zero Waste

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.


July 25 - First Ever Study of Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes

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:

July 13 - AZ - Bisbee Extends Bag Reduction Program Into 2013



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.

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