Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider describes the environmental hazards of plastic bags and the measure on the November ballot to reinstate them.
Michael Stout

Environmentalist rallied at Goleta Beach Thursday with Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, marking what would have been the last week of plastic grocery bag use in the State of California. The “bag ban” law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014, has stalled to a standstill after out-of-state investors financed a referendum that put the measure on the November 2016 ballot. Because the measure is now up for a vote, its effective date is postponed until public votes for or against it. Until then, millions of single-use plastic bags will be distributed throughout state; as many as two-thirds of cities do not ban or limit their use. The event was organized to gain public support of the bag ban as environmentalist continue to face opposition.

“It just makes sense to have one simple and consistent rule throughout the state,” said Schneider, who supported Santa Barbara’s bag ban ordinance last year. Schneider said that as mayor, she has heard no complaints about the ban from the public.

As part of the effort to save the bag ban, supporters have created the #MyBag social media campaign that encourages peoples to take selfies with their reusable grocery bags. Governor Jerry Brown is among the many popular figures who have taken to social media to show their support.

Environment California, a statewide environmental advocacy group working to save the bag ban, hosted the rally. Intern Alec Bartholomew said he has spent nearly everyday of summer volunteering with Environment California. He was driven to act, he said,because of the profound level of pollution caused by disposable plastic. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), plastic is one of the main causes of ocean pollution and enters the ocean only by the hands of humans. Sea turtles and many other marine animals suffer when they mistake the small plastic shards for jellyfish and plankton. Their digestive systems becomes clogged after they fill their stomachs with the indigestible, petroleum-based substance. According to NOAA, death is the most common outcome.

Heather Goold, a local canvass director for Save the Bag Ban, said the $3 million used to delay the ban is only a small fraction of the profit made by out-of-state investors. “Nothing we use for a few minutes should end up polluting our oceans for hundreds of years,” she said.


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