Nevada County residents, students push plastic bag ban
May 7, 2013
By the numbers: Plastic Bags
100: The number of California jurisdictions that have adopted or are considering ordinances banning plastic single-use bags,
12 billion: Estimated number of single-use plastic bags Californians consume per year.
5 percent: Despite active efforts to expand recycling programs, the recycling rate of single-use plastic bags remains around 5 percent. 7,825,319: The number of plastic bags collected during International Coastal Cleanup events over the last 25 years.
49: The number of marine mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates entangled or trapped by plastic bags discovered by volunteers participating in the 2009 International Coastal Cleanup.
$25 Million: Estimated amount California spends per year to landfill discarded plastic bags.
Source: Heal the Bay
A coalition of Nevada County residents and school children is pushing local officials to ban single-use plastic bags such as those commonly found at grocery store check-out counters.
"We are serious about this," said Sue Roberts-Emery, a member of Bag Busters of Nevada County, a group of residents seeking a local ordinance that falls in line with a statewide trend to ban single-use plastic bags and dissuade paper bag use. The group's Facebook page has more than 200 members.
"That is the goal — to drop plastics and do away with paper," said Roberts-Emery.
Already, more than 50 ordinances have banned single-use plastic bags, affecting more than 70 jurisdictions statewide. Coupled with ongoing efforts, about one-third of Californians currently live in a jurisdiction that has banned or is considering banning single-use plastic bags, according to environmental organization Heal the Bay.
"It's a mindset. Once you get it, you understand and you take your own bags (to the store)," Roberts-Emery said.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, is author of AB 158, the most recent attempt for a statewide ban. The bill, which would ban such bags in grocery, drug and convenience stores, garnered the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee approval at the beginning of the month, reported Riverside's Press-Enterprise.
Roberts-Emery hope's Levine's ban will be debated by this week but acknowledges that it would not take effect until 2015.
"We would like to see something sooner," Roberts-Emery said. "I feels like now is the time. People are understanding the dangers to our environment and our health."
Around 150 letters went out last week to officials in both Grass Valley and Nevada City, as well as those in Nevada County, Roberts-Emery said.
The majority of those letters bore the penmanship of students at Grass Valley Charter, Deer Creek, Forrest Charter, Yuba River Charter and Nevada City School of the Arts, Roberts-Emery said, following the successful model of the Save the Parks initiative last year, which saw students lobby to keep local state parks open in the face of budget-driven closure considerations.
Supporters and students hope to make appearances at governmental meetings April 23 and 24, Roberts-Emery said.
"We plan to really get this to the public and move fast," Roberts-Emery said. "Maybe have a decision by the end of the school year."
While Grass Valley City Manager Dan Holler said the city did receive a couple dozen letters from students, no formal ordinance proposals have been brought forward nor have any elected officials requested city staff look into the matter.
"It's not on our radar as a policy issue," he said. "If there is a strong community swell coming in and asking us to ban plastic bags, we would consider that."
Bag Busters is not the first Nevada County organization to set its sights on banning single-use plastic bags.
Truckee is also considering an ordinance that would ban all plastic checkout bags but allow area businesses to offer customers recyclable paper bags for an undetermined fee. All generated funds would be kept by the businesses to cover implementation costs.
Before the town's council considers the matter, Truckee city staff requested that residents be surveyed. Once compiled, the results will be presented to council for consideration.
"We are not opposed to a ban on plastic bags," said David Painter, co-owner of SPD Markets. "It is kind of a trend."
More and more customers already bring their own bags, Painter said.
"Ideally, any market would like to see customers bring their own bags with them," Painter said. "It is becoming a part of their consciousness."
However, it could pose some challenges regarding produce and how checkout workers handle similar fresh foods when tallying a bill, Painter said. "We would be supportive of it if it was a county-wide ban," Painter said. "If it is going to happen, I would like to see everybody participate and not just a select geographic area."
Bag Busters is conducting its own surveys, Roberts-Emery said. In addition to children informally visiting stores and tallying who brings a bag and who uses paper or plastic, the group also started a survey on Survey Monkey, an online survey service. A link to that service can be found on the group's Facebook page.
The group is also showing a documentary from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. April 20 at the Del Oro Theater in Grass Valley. The film "How the Kids Saved the Parks" will screen in conjunction with the film "Bag It," a sometimes humorous but also informative look at the impact plastic bags are having on the health of our planet and its inhabitants, said Alex Ezzell, a teacher and one of the bag-ban supporters.
"It's really about educating people," Roberts-Emery said. "Once people see about the dangers of plastic, it is a no-brainer."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Sue Roberts-Emery's name. The Union regrets the error.
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