Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Rise Above Plastics Blog Has Moved

The Surfrider Foundation has consolidated all of our issue-based blogs into one Coastal Blog.

Check it out at
and to view all of the Rise Above Plastics posts at once you can bookmark

Thursday, July 14, 2011

California Supreme Court Rules for Bag Bans!

Today, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Manhattan Beach’s single-use plastic bag ban, holding that state law does not require the City to complete a full Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) in order to impose the ban. This decision undoubtedly will make it easier for cities to prohibit stores from distributing plastic grocery bags, ruling that state law didn't require Manhattan Beach to do an environmental impact report before imposing a plastic-bag ban in 2008. In the past, California cities have been especially deterred from acting to pass these local ordinances because there was the potential to be sued by the "Save Our Plastic Bag Coalition," a group comprised of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors.

The Plaintiff industry group claims the movement to ban plastic bags was based on misinformation and would increase the use of paper bags, with overall negative environmental consequences. However, the Supreme Court seemed to understand that the motive behind the ordinance was to replace single-use plastic bags with reusable ones, thereby making for a better coastal environment. Surely, the ordinance would have no significant negative effect on the environment. Justice Carol A. Corrigan, writing for a unanimous court and reversing the lower court opinion, said that “[s]ubstantial evidence and common sense support the city’s determination that its ordinance would have no significant effect. Therefore, a negative declaration was sufficient to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.”

Half of the opinion is spent discussing the standard for standing (or ability to sue). The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, even though representing industry corporations, was allowed to bring this citizen suit because there was an actual controversy between parties with sufficient interests in the subject matter. The court also noted that under CEQA, strict rules of standing do not apply when there are broad environmental concerns involved in the case.

This is a win for Manhattan Beach who has spent the past three years wrapped up in this litigation at the Superior Court, Appeals Court and finally the California Supreme Court level. It started in July of 2008, when Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter activists worked with many other environmental organizations to spark Manhattan Beach City Council to prohibit carry-out plastic bags.

Importantly, this decision means that it is safe for cities (especially smaller cities) to proceed in enacting a local bag ban ordinance with merely an accompanying Negative Declaration rather than a full (and more expensive) Environmental Impact Report to fulfill their California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) requirement. The decision does focus on Manhattan Beach being a smaller city, with the population of 35,852 in the 2010 census, as one of the justifications for environmental impact being low.

One significant distinguishing factor between the Manhattan Beach case and the more recent bag bans that have been passed in California is the inclusion of a 5-cent fee on single-use paper bags. Because the popular approach to this issue is now deterring all single-use bags, there is even less of an argument that a restriction on plastic bags will increase the use of paper bags. The object of all cities that are trying to regulate bags in California is to encourage consumers to shop with reusable bags and to encourage the habit of bringing your own bag to the store. This type of ordinance regulating both paper and plastic, in turn, alleviates the impact on the environment, especially the marine environment, and stops a waste of natural resources used to make the single-use bags.

San Francisco, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Calabasas, Marin County and unincorporated Los Angeles County have also enacted bans. Many other cities are chomping at the bit to do the same, but were waiting on the opinion of the Supreme Court in this case. This opinion will usher in a new round of local action on single-use plastic bag pollution.

Applause to the California Supreme Court for allowing Manhattan Beach to Rise Above Plastics!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Texas' Attempt to Ban Plastic Bag Bans Fails!

I am happy to announce with that the attempt by two Texas Legislators to limit local rule on plastic bag ordinances has failed in the Texas Legislature leaving local communities able to tackle plastic pollution on their own terms!  This was the result of a joint effort by all 5 Texas Chapters of the Surfrider Foundation and the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

This now leaves the door open for proposed plastic bag bans in Austin, Corpus Christi and Galveston to be passed and join South Padre Island, Brownsville and Fort Stockton as communities that have adopted plastic bag bans in an effort to reduce litter and plastics litter in their areas!  The passage of more plastic bag ordinances within the state of Texas is now imperative in the next 2 years so that Texas Legislators that supported the ban on plastic bag bans will be forced to defend actions that were taken in their districts to take care of their environment.

Ironically, Senator Troy Fraser who introduced the Senate version of the plastic bag ordinance ban was named as one of Texas Monthly's worst legislators for the 82nd Texas Legislative Session.  He actually introduced legislation that would give incentive to grow the states burgeoning solar energy industry but then failed to support the legislation himself.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Sea Turtle's Bag

For those of you that refuse to believe that plastic bags have a direct effect on marine life see below.  This turtle was rescued by Sea Turtle, Inc. on South Padre Island.  The volunteer is having to aid the animal in passing the bag.  Most turtles are not so lucky to have assistance and end up dying. 

Yes.  This is a REAL turtle attempting to pass a REAL plastic shopping bag it consumed
Thanks to the hospital at Sea Turtle, Inc. this Sea Turtle will survive its mistake.  Most aren't so lucky.

Pass on the bag so another Sea Turtle won't have to!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BPA on Cash Register Receipts - D'OH!

Bisphenol-A, or "BPA", is a key component in plastics. It has been fingered by scientists as an endocrine disruptor and in studies has shown to mimic the effects of the female-centric hormone estrogen... And...scientists and biologists agree that when you mess with a person's hormones, you are asking for trouble, so bottom line: stop eating & drinking from items that leach this BPA (all plastics leach these chemicals). Fun Fact: plastic drink bottles contain and leach this BPA Chemical.

NEWS FLASH: Sadly, now BPA is a key component in cash register receipts! Hel-lo! Yep, it's that powdery-feeling stuff on the ubiquitous "thermal" cash register receipts - so pretty much ALL receipts that you get from any establishment nowadays is coated with waaaaay more BPA than is proven to be harmful to developing babies, in clinical studies. Experts claim that these receipts give off waaaaay more BPA than you can get from drinking from plastic bottles - so much so that several restaurant chains are banning the use of this type of "paper" receipt in their restaurants.

Taco Bell, KFC & Pizza Hut are all dumping the BPA receipts - and you thought that they didn't care about your health...tsk-tsk - THEY ARE MAVERICKS - BRAVO! Read one of the articles about it here. We here at RAP HQ have even heard that the ENTIRE COUNTRY of JAPAN has already banned this type of receipt paper-poison-stuff.

Watch out for stuff labeled "BPA Free" too - this nasty BPA is often being replaced in plastics with something called..."BPS"...we can only imagine what this yet-to-be-studied compound will do to our bodies - stay tuned for more on that as we get more info!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Greatest Generation Had It Right. So What Happened?

We have a lot to learn from our Grandparents.  I find myself in awe with my Grandmother, Nana as I have known her my entire life.  She is the strongest and most opinionated woman I have ever met.  She isn't going to sugar coat anything when it comes to her beliefs.  Why not, she grew up in the Great Depression and watched all of her Brothers sail off to the Pacific in World War II.  She even tried to get certified to ferry B-17 bombers to Europe but luckily the war ended and ALL of her brothers came home to start their new lives.  The great life stories she tells only begin there!

To wrap her up in one sentence, my Dad used to say, "Nana can spit further and shoot straighter than any man alive and will prove it at the drop of a hat."  That being said, she is the essence of a truly radiant, polished and kind Texas woman.

That's a long intro for this post but it is important because Nana is strong willed.  The times she grew up in in South Texas made her that way.  She has never, to my knowledge, backed down from a challenge and rising above plastics is a huge challenge, especially to older people.  The irony is it shouldn't have ever happened that this campaign ever came about.  They already had it right!

Nana grew up in the Great Depression and World War II.  This time in America was all about living on very little and wasting nothing.  People were asked to collect scrap metal, tires, cans, to not drive, grow their own gardens.  Even cooking fat had value to be recycled for explosives.  Nana has told us multiple times of when they would get a stick of chewing gum as kids, it was such a big deal that they would stick it on their headboards when they went to sleep at night and chew it again the next day!

To use something once and throw it away was seen as not being a patriotic American and though times were very difficult, the people that came out were proud, not wasteful and saved everything!

My Grandmother now hates the fact that the City of San Antonio makes her recycle.  What?!  They even provide a large bin and sort it for her.  When you look back on the beginning of this post, you would think that recycling is at the core of her being. After all, she grew up doing it.  Do not get me wrong, this one aspect of her personality does not diminish her in my eyes at all.  I am just wanting to know what happened.  The woman still uses cloth napkins for crying out loud at just about every meal and then washes them! It doesn't jive.  

So what did happen to us in the few decades since the galvanizing of the "Greatest Generation". We got lazy and single use plastics led the way!  Why wash the dishes when you could use a paper plate or cup and throw it away?  Why have to use a soggy paper plate or cup when you could use the newer and stronger plastic ones?  Why go through the effort of taking that case of returnable glass bottles back to the store for that 5 cent refund when you could just get your soda in a convenient can or plastic bottle that can just be discarded when done?  Finally and the biggest one, why drink that "filthy" tap water out of the faucet or fountain when you can carry this "cleaner" and more stylish water around in a convenient SINGLE USE PLASTIC BOTTLE?

The "Rise Above Plastics" campaign is simple in concept and is one of the most challenging things you will ever do in life at the same time.  Breaking the habit of those plastic bottles and bags is hard and anyone who says any different is not being honest.  In fact, you have no real concept of just how much single use plastics have become a part of your life and our society until you decide to make that break.  It can be done though.

"Rise Above Plastics" is an attempt to get us back to where we were just 6 decades ago.  Our Grandparents and parents had it right.  It was good and patriotic to not produce so much waste and to reuse things.  Now through some twisted flip of the script businesses, lobbyists and politicians have convinced us that it is now oppressive and wrong to want our society to go back to the days before we threw away 215 plastic bottles per person in the United States a year.  That's 66 BILLION bottles annually There is something inherently wrong with that line of logic.

If you have not already started or tried, today is your day to go retro and emulate part of the greatness of the "Greatest Generation".  They did it.  My Grandmother still does it on some levels without even realizing it. Remember those cloth napkins?  I'm working with her on the other stuff but when I say strong willed, I am not kidding around.  It will be hard and you will stumble and forget your reusable bags or your reusable bottle or coffee cup but we all make mistakes AND we all become better as we move on from them.  Rehabilitate your life and feel good doing it.

Today is your day to start rising above plastics!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Brownsville Bag Ban Eliminates 350,000 Plastic Bags Per Day!

It's amazing that with results like this, the Texas Legislature is attempting to ban plastic bag bans in Texas.

From May 7, 2011 New York Times.....

Mixed Reviews for Brownsville Ban on Plastic Bags

Ms. Orozco’s collection of tote bags stems from a recent ordinance in Brownsville, one of Texas’ poorest big cities: a ban on plastic checkout bags in virtually all businesses.The policy, which took effect in January, has eliminated more than 350,000 bags per day, according to Mayor Pat Ahumada, who said in an e-mail that it has “transformed our city from littered and dirty to a much cleaner city.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

'Share A Bag' at Your Local Farmers Market

There are lots of cool ways to Rise Above Plastics and we love this idea from the Mar Vista Farmers Market in California. The market has decided to ban the controversial bags, which pose a serious threat to marine life and contribute to our reliance on oil. Come Sept. 1, 2011, plastic grocery bags will no longer be given out by Mar Vista Farmers' Market vendors.

To wean shoppers off their reliance on the offending plastic bags, Mar Vista Farmers' Market management and the Mar Vista Community Council's Green Committee launched a "Share a Bag" program at the market on April 17. Five hundred free, reusable bags were distributed to kick off the program.

Click Here for the full story from

Monday, May 2, 2011

Real Reason Coke Is Not Ditching BPA.

As a side note to the below article, I would like to comment that to this day, you can go into Mexico and buy and exchange your Coca-Cola, Topo Chico and yes, beer bottles any day of the week.  Unfortunately for myself and them, I am no longer willing to risk being caught in the cross fire of a firefight between the Mexican Military and the Drug Cartels to do this.  Yes, a country that is in the midst of a turmoil that we hopefully will never know here, still has a returnable bottle program that spreads across international borders and works.

From the April 29th article, " The Real Reason Coca-Cola Isn't Ditching Bisphenol A" at Treehugger by Lloyd Alter
"The REAL reason that Coke isn't talking is that they know perfectly well what the real answer is to the issue of how to get rid of BPA in cans: bring back the returnable bottle system that they have spent fifty years trying to destroy. As I noted in my post Recycling is Bullshit, the switch to disposables has enabled Coke to centralize production, eliminate the independent bottlers that served each community or region, and ship the stuff around the country on the interstates paid for by the taxpayers.

They have become hugely profitable because they have shifted the cost of taking back and dealing with the container from the company to Ariel and me and everyone else who pays for the garbage pickup, the landfill and the recycling costs.

Right now, there is no proven, reliable replacement for Bispenol A epoxies for acidic products like tomatoes or Coke. If people want to stop being exposed to it, they should demand returnable, refillable glass bottles. The stuff tastes better in it anyways."

Read the entire story here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Texas Lege Attempts To Ban Plastic Bag Bans!

There are two bills in the Texas Legislature right now that represent what is wrong with our political "discourse" as of late.  They also do a hell of a job pointing out the hypocrisy that political parties regularly generate.

Senator Troy Fraser
Rep. Kelly Hancock
Everyone in Texas (Conservative, Liberal, Tea Party, Independent) should immediately contact their Texas State Senators and Representatives and ask them to strike out the last line of SB908 and HB1913.  These bills are 95% good (encouraging the recycling of plastic shopping bags and offering of reusable bags), but the two lawmakers that are sponsoring them, District 24 Senator Troy Fraser and  District 91 Representative Kelly Hancock, have decided to slide in a restrictive clause in the bill that would limit local community rights by not allowing them to enact any local ordinances that would conflict with these bills.  Some,myself among them, interpret this to mean that  Texas towns and counties will not be able to draft and implement plastic bag bans, fees or other ordinances that would aid in the reduction of litter in their area.

The reason that an environmental conscious person should object to the restrictions on their local governments is obvious.  Encouraging the recycling of plastic bags is nice but is really almost completely ineffectual and almost non existent.  These bags end up in our streets and gutters; clogging them up.  Those that get through the gutters move on to our lakes, rivers and oceans to finally end up being consumed by marine animals and birds that mistake them for food.

Only 1%-9% of plastic bags are recycled annually.  In addition the recyclables commodity market does not exactly encourage the recycling of plastic bags by private industry and is a huge loss for anyone who attempts it.  According to the Clean Air Council, it costs $1,000 to recycle one ton of plastic bags which can be turned around and sold for $32.  Not really a great cost benefit ratio there, huh?  Therefor it is obvious that we should reduce the amount and usage of these bags through bans on these bags being distributed at stores or by implementing fees that will discourage the use of the bags encourage reusable bags but still provide funding for those cities and towns to clean up the current plastic litter problem they are facing.

What if you think, despite the above information, that plastic bag bans, fees and other ordinances are not the answer and consumers should have the option of plastic bags and then recycle and reuse them?  Well, these bills seek to usurp local community's rights to enact laws and regulations that they feel would address their plastic and other litter issues.  Whether these laws end up being a ban, a fee or even an expanded recycling program- shouldn't those communities have THAT choice to tackle their problem?  After all the solution will be debated on the local level and not dictated by a lawmaker in Austin.

Isn't this what many of the Conservatives ran on to ride the wave of conservative change into the Texas Legislature in 2010?  They told their constituents that they, like them, were tired of being told what to do by the ever expanding state and federal government and they would protect the rights of their constituents to make their own choices for their communities and themselves.  The very fact that HB1913 and SB908 seek to limit these local powers is a slap in the face to these principles that conservative candidates  like Representative Hancock and Senator Fraser expounded on to get into office.  As a Conservative or Tea Party member, you should be outraged and send a message to them and your own local Legislators to leave your community alone and  let you decide these issues at the local level!

I urge you to please contact your local Texas State Representative and Senator and tell them to oppose HB1913 and SB908 and stop this attempt by the Texas Legislature to take away your local rights to enact laws that would benefit your communities!  Click on the link below to utilize a resource created by the Surfrider Foundation that will direct you to your Law Maker and help you send a letter to them today!