Throughout the world, up to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed on a yearly basis. Because of widespread overconsumption and inconsistent recycling habits, many of those plastic bags float adrift as toxic waste in the ocean. In fact, for every square mile of ocean water, there is an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic. Innocent animals, like sea turtles, mistake the plastic bags for jellyfish, and after eating the bags, often suffocate and die. In addition, plastic bags emit toxins that contaminate the ocean water, creating a disastrous chain of events within the ocean’s ecosystems.
Because plastic bags are petroleum based, they require massive amounts of oil in production, and they are not biodegradable once they are used and discarded. For example, the United States pollutes the world with approximately 380 million plastic bags annually, which equates to 12 million wasted barrels of oil.
Simply put, plastic bags are an unnecessary burden on the environment, and should be banned throughout the world. San Francisco and Los Angeles have already taken the lead in reforming plastic bag consumption through banning petroleum-based plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies, while San Diego is in the midst of attempting to implement similar measures.
Regardless of the eye-opening facts, bans on plastic bags have received criticism. Politicians, who are largely influenced by large plastic bag manufacturers, and even voters, who are often influenced by politically charged news outlets, argue that banning plastic bags will not solve our environmental crisis. Furthermore, the opposition argues that banning plastic bags will be inconvenient for shoppers, and bad for business.
It is time to ignore the selfish motivations of big businesses and politicians, and recognize that we are responsible for our impact on the earth. Banning plastic bags will force people to use reusable bags, and although this might not save the world immediately, it is one of the many necessary steps we must take towards improving our environmental crisis.
The City of San Diego’s Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance, like the plastic bag bans already in place in Los Angeles and San Francisco, proposes that stores encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags to the store by adding a 10-cent charge to every paper bag used. Although the City of San Diego’s Rules and Economic Development Committee unanimously decided to proceed with an environmental review of the legislation, the Mayor’s office is stalling the process as well as the environmental review.
San Diego County Chapter Chair, Roger Kube, says, “San Diego is the largest city in California that has yet to pass a plastic bag ordinance to address the plastic pollution issue plaguing our coastline. The Mayor’s office, against the will of the Rules and Economic Development Committee, has delayed the necessary steps to bring this ordinance to the City Council for a vote. We urge our Mayor to reinstate the environmental review process immediately.”
Surfrider is leading the charge in San Diego to ban plastic bags, and you can help. Visit Surfrider.org
California has begun the fight, but the rest of the country must begin rethinking plastic bag consumption as well as their impact on the environment as a whole. Encourage your local politicians to join the fight to “ban the bag.”