In recent weeks, Joshua Brown, Cindy Zou, and Vivian Chen of Fairview’s NET ZERO CLUB have spoken out on the urgency of banning plastic bags. I join them in urging the Boulder City Council to pass a law to phase out their use as soon as possible. This simple action will help decrease our national oil consumption as well as aid our beleaguered environment.
According to planetgreen.com, Americans discard some 100 billion plastic bags a year, the equivalent of approximately twelve million barrels of oil. A mere ten percent are recycled, and many of the remainder end up in the Pacific Ocean in two floating masses: the Eastern and Western Pacific Gyres. These two circulating garbage patches contaminate the waters for plant and marine life dependent on them.
According to a five-part series in the Los Angeles Times, the Eastern Garbage Patch, which floats between Texas and California, is twice as big as the state of Texas. The Western Garbage Patch, in the waters east of Japan and west of Hawaii, is also massive. Both have been collecting trash from all over the world since World War II. Scientists estimate the debris absorbs poisons from the air and water and never dissipates, but slowly photo degrades, eventually breaking into small bits called nurdles. In total, more than a million birds and marine animals die each year from consuming these nurdles or becoming caught in plastic and other debris.
In response to increasing knowledge of these environmental hazards, some seventy three countries have banned plastic bags, beginning with South Africa in 2003 and followed by Botswana and Uganda. China banned them in 2008, France was scheduled to phase them out by the end of 2010, and Italy became the latest country to do so beginning in January.
A number of American cities have taken the lead. If enough follow suit, perhaps the United States will eventually join the seventy three other countries already doing one small thing to help save our planet. Cities already banning bags include:
–Bellingham, WA- Ordinance adopted July 12, 2011; the ban takes effect one year after it becomes law, giving retailers time to adjust.
–District of Columbia – Effective January 2010
–Edmonds, WA – Adopted August 2009; Effective August 2010
–Fairfax, Calif. – Passed by voter initiative on November 4, 2008
–Kauai County, Hawaii- Effective 2011
–Malibu, Calif. – Adopted May 2008
–Manhattan Beach, Calif. – Adopted July 1, 2008 – In lawsuit
–Marshall County, Iowa – Effective April 9, 2009
–Maui County, Hawaii – Effective 2011
–North Carolina (Outer Banks) – Adopted June 24, 2009; Effective September 1, 2009
–Oakland, Calif. – Adopted June 29, 2007 – Voluntary ban
–Paia, Maui, Hawaii – Effective 2008
I urge the Boulder City Council to take steps to pass an ordinance to begin phasing out the use of plastic bags.