It’s time to stock up on reusable bags for your backpacks, purses and car trunks. The movement to eliminate single-use bags from stores is gaining momentum.
The Marin County bag ordinance in effect as of Jan. 1 comes on the heels of Fairfax’s plastic bag ban approved by nearly 80% of Fairfax voters in 2009. The Fairfax measure, spearheaded by Renee Goddard, was a great success for the town. Plastic bags are are not only disastrous for the environment, but jam up the recycling stream and are rarely recycled.
Goddard emphasized that the Fairfax bag ban was pursued in the spirit of collaboration with Fairfax businesses. “Most of our retailers were already moving away from the use of single-use plastics. I believe they experienced this legislation as a positive, unifying opportunity to celebrate our common desire to do what is right for the environment," she said.
The Marin County ordinance, impacting unincorporated areas of Marin, takes a big step forward by eliminating single-use plastic bags and mandating a minimum five-cent charge for paper bags, making reuseable bags even more attractive.
Although the new law does not apply to incorporated cities and towns like Fairfax, Good Earth Natural Foods has stepped up to the plate by voluntarily participating, and is graciously donating the five-cent fee to Sustainable Fairfax. Although it is far more eco-friendly to bring reusable bags to the store than purchase paper ones (see our Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions), Sustainable Fairfax will put these funds to good use by helping the town achieve its zero-waste goals. Fairfax's zero-waste ordinance aims for 95 percent diversion by 2020, which is five years ahead of the County.
Hopefully, other cities and businesses in incorporated Marin will recognize the importance of the plastic bag ban and paper bag charge and follow Good Earth’s lead. Paper bags are extremely damaging to the environment, destroying trees and ecosystems, wasting massive amounts of water and energy, and requiring harmful chemicals to produce and recycle them.
The good news is that bag bans are spreading in California and beyond. They have been implemented in ten states within the United States, as well as many developed and developing countries.
California Assemblywoman Julia Brownley intends on continuing her fight to implement a plastic bag ban statewide in 2012. The Assemblywoman's previous plastic bag ban bill AB 1998 was rejected by the California Senate in 2008, but, given the expansion of plastic bag ordinances across the state including unincorporated Los Angeles and the City of San Jose, the political landscape is now quite different.
The benefits of such legislation are clear. China implemented a plastic bag ban in 2008 and reportedly saved 60,000 tons of plastics, equal to five million tons of coals, and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by over 10 million tons.
With efforts from governments, businesses and citizens, together we can curb the wasteful and needless practice of single-use bags.