Thousands of reusable bags were distributed throughout Los Angeles County on December 18 in order to encourage shoppers to give up disposable plastic bags.
The second annual, A Day Without A Bag was coordinated by Heal the Bay and supported by a broad coalition of retailers, local governments, and community groups across the county. In Santa Monica, reusable bags were given out on: the Third Street Promenade; at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium; at the Santa Monica libraries; and at various markets and retailers.
Students from Santa Monica High School’s environmental youth group, “Team Marine,” participated in A Day Without A Bag, by marching to City Hall and Downtown Santa Monica to promote the banning of single-use plastic bags. Santa Monica’s City Council has already voted to ban these bags, but they are still being used in the City. The City Council is scheduled to discuss a draft ordinance on the ban on January 13 which will also include placing a fee on the use of paper bags at retail stores.
However, switching from single-use plastic bags to paper bags is not considered an environmentally acceptable solution because the manufacturing of paper bags increases the emission of global warming gases, creates water pollution, and uses raw materials and energy. Their disposal also increases landfill costs.
In an interview with the Mirror, Team Marine’s faculty advisor Benjamin Kay, who is Marine Biology teacher, stated the student march was related to the school’s goal of creating a “trash-free lunch” where Ziploc bags would be replaced with Tupperware, reusable lunch bags would replace brown paper bags, and plastic water bottles would be replaced with stainless steel reusable bottles.
Randi Parent, Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium’s Community
Outreach Coordinator, told the Mirror that about 300 reusable bags were handed out on the Third Street Promenade, and also that a significant number of people “wouldn’t take a bag because they had so many at home.” To her, this was an indication of the fact that people are adapting to reusable bags when shopping.
Heal the Bay literature states that Californians use about 19 billion bags a year, which works out to about 552 bags per resident. The disposal of these bags in landfills is costing California taxpayers approximately $25 million per year and they are a big source of litter in our neighborhoods and in the ocean.
Plastic bags make their way into the ocean through storm drains, resulting in marine life deaths because fish mistake them for food or become entangled in them. Other environmental concerns about plastic bags are that they are not biodegradable, they are made from fossil fuels which are non-renewable resources, and that they are rarely recycled by end-use consumers.
Mathew King, Heal the Bay’s Communications Director, noted that the event this year was very gratifying because other counties throughout the state are having similar events to get out the message and spirit of the Los Angeles event. He also mentioned that California Assembly member Julia Brownley is working on a bill to help curtail plastic bag use.