Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Be An Arrogant Bastard NOT An Ignorant One.

Stone Brewing Co. has been a long-time supporter of the Surfrider San Diego Chapter through their annual anniversary celebration and other efforts. They are also stewards of the environment by conserving water where possible at their Escondido CA brewery/restaurant/company store. Stone features local, organic and vegetarian/vegan food options at their World Bistro and Gardens and they installed solar panels at their brewery to help harness some of the abundant renewable solar energy.

I was recently over at the WB&G for lunch and would recommend the tempeh shepards pie, it was quite tasty and filling. After lunch I swung through the Stone Company Store and was stoked to see them selling reusable Chico bags with a classic Arrogant Bastard twist. In addition to potentially saving hundreds of single-use bags it's a good conversation piece as I have had more comments on this bag than any of my other reusable ones. While I usually prefer an organic cotton bag, it's tough to beat the convenience of a Chico bag that folds into itself and comes with a mini carabiner.

Cheers to Stone and Happy New Year to you!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mexico's Plastic Bag Reformation Proposal

It looks as if the Distrito Federal de Mexico or Mexico City is considering a plastic bag ban in the city's mercantile production establishments! The reformation proposal was recently unanimously passed by the Commissions of Science, Technology and Environment and Ecological Protection of the Assembly.If this is truly the case and Mexico is able to implement the proposal as law, this would be a huge step for the country as a whole.

As one who has traveled many, many times from Brownsville, Texas to the Pacific Coast of the Mexican Mainland by bus and by car, the amount of plastic bags that can be seen blowing through the streets, air and down the mountainsides that line the side of the route down to my favorite surf spots blows my mind! Many times the bags can be seen in huge refuse piles in the villages along the coast breaking up in the sun's ultraviolet light and blowing down into the rivers and ocean.

I hope that this reformation proposal does become law and is the first step in the cleansing of a truly beautiful country!

Click here to read the "Prensa Latina" article announcing the proposal!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Encinitas Chant & O'side 2-Step

This video was shot a the Day w/o A Bag day press conference - and features Encinitas Mayor Maggie Houlihan chanting "Encinitas does not want the waste of single-use plastic bags!!" at Mrs. Bag Monster (Mrs. Monster was in town for the day). The short vid features local Surfrider RAP activist Shelly Kwik (blonde in initial frames of video) as well as Keri Conte (red shirt w/black sleeves, in crowd pan shot), the San Diego Surfrider RAP Program Manager. Niiiiice!

ALSO in attendance at this event, to receive awards for their support of the Day w/o A Bag day AND the upcoming bag "ban" proposal (now under construction), were representatives of all of the major grocery chains operating in Encinitas: Albertsons, Vons, Seaside Market, Trader Joes, etc. Thanks to them for understanding and "Rising" to the RAP effort.

After the Encinitas event, Keri and I shot up to the Oceanside Blvd Ralphs in Oceanside to distribute Surfrider's heavy-duty re-usable canvas bags to shoppers there - bags that were purchased with a GENEROUS donation from UPS/Mailboxes, Etc via their 1% For The Planet participation. Then it was off to Oceanside's Sunset Market outdoor farmer's market to exercise our new partnership with the City of Oceanside - where we engaged each other in a friendly competition to see who's canvas bags were the most "au populaire"...the numbers are still being totaled - stay tuned . . . .

Bottom Line: Bravo to all of the volunteers AND all of the commercial sponsors that understand the problem of plastics in our environment and for their support of our efforts to try to reverse that problem!

Add Image

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

RAP is Easy With Day Without A Bag

It's holiday time and shopping is upon us. Woohoo and boohoo all wrapped up in one colorful, non-disposable bag, right? right! It's Wednesday, December 18 friends, translation: DAY WITHOUT A BAG, or DWAB. As Keri tells us below, DWAB focuses on raising consumer awareness about shopping bag choices. If you bring your own reusable tote instead of use a disposable plastic bag, then you've given an extra present- to the environment, pretty cool. Here's how Chapters around the country are promoting DWAB:

- WestLA/Malibu - handing out free usable bags at the Country Mart in Malibu from 10am-1pm; 3:45pm student-led march to City Hall with Santa Monica High School to encourage the City Council to act on a bag ban ordinance drafted 10 months ago
- Rhode Island - observing the day from 12-8 at the Village at South County Commons in South Kingstown, partnering with Save the Bay's Coastkeeper Program
- Santa Cruz - tabling at various locations throughout town, giving out resusable totes at Safeway stores
- Santa Barbara - tabling and giving our free reusable bags at various locations, partnering with the Ocean Futures Society
- South Orange County - press conference at Ralph's in Talega; tabling and giving out free reusable throughout the County, partnering with Earth Resource Foundation and San Clemente Green
- Washington - efforts through Chapter website and email blasts
- San Diego - press conference, bag giveaways at Ralph's, and much more, see details below.

A big Thank You to all these great Chapter efforts- and to you- for every single use plastic bag NOT used is one that won't end up as litter on our streets, beaches and oceans.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day Without a Bag - Oceanside

December 18th’s "Day Without A Bag" public awareness campaign was initially developed in December of 2007 in the Los Angeles area to urge shoppers to give a present to the environment, in the spirit of the holiday season, by foregoing disposable plastic and paper bags in favor of reusable totes. This successful campaign has sprouted into an annual event celebrated throughout the Southern California region.

To celebrate this year’s December 18th "Day without a Bag" event, the City of Oceanside Solid Waste and Recycling Division is facilitating several efforts throughout the City with the support of the Parks and Recreation Division; Surfrider Foundation; Main Street Oceanside Sunset Market; Ralphs; and Trader Joes.

The San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the City of Oceanside Solid Waste and Recycling Division have donated a large quantity of reusable bags to the Sunset Market to make it a "Bagless Market" on December 18th. Customers of the Sunset Market will be provided a ticket by participating vendors when an item is sold rather than a plastic bag for their item. That ticket may then be redeemed at the City of Oceanside Solid Waste and Recycling/Surfrider booth for a free reusable bag while supplies last.

Ralphs has donated bags to the campaign in support of a distribution/ information booth at 1702 Oceanside Blvd from 10am to 2pm. Surfrider volunteers and Solid Waste and Recycling staff will be handing out reusable bags to customers during that time period.

Trader Joes at 2570 Vista Way in Oceanside, is supporting a distribution/outreach booth in their breezeway from 10am to 2pm. City staff will be supporting the booth and providing reusable bags and informational items to customers of Trader Joes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Don't Bring Home the Polystyrene Foam

At a beach cleanup recently, we spent about one third of our time picking up broken up bits of Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene foam)cups along the dunes. Those little pieces end up in the ocean and look like food to the critters, so we spend the time. As far as all of the various plastics go, Styrofoam is particularly heinous- food service Styro is totally unrecyclable, it's about as light as air so it blows around and breaks apart, it's made with Styrene and Benzene- a suspected carcinogen and known neurotoxin, it's about as single use as it gets. The argument: it insulates well. Agreed. But as with everything, it comes down to cost benefit, and I don't see, even for one slow second, how the benefit of bringing home one third of a leftover burrito in a Styrofoam clamshell container outweighs the long-term cost to marine life, the environment and public health. I took a picture of it to show at a city council meeting. In Monterey we are fighting for an ordinance requiring restaurants to use compostable or recyclable food containers.

I love this gift I received from a Surfrider WestLA/Malibu Chapter Activist, Laura Boccaletti, when I presented there a few months back. Well done! We use it to table at our beach cleanups now. If you do beach cleanups, this would be a great project to put a creative person in charge of, make one of these, bring it to cleanups, and talk about why...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Plastic Bag Ban Swirling in San Diego's Politics

News in San Diego is that a ban of plastic bags may be considered by the City Council. Although it still has a long road to go before becoming an actual ordinance, it has been creating heated debate of the issue of using one-time use products.

I have been interviewed by media and talking to several people about the issue and as the conversation develops I have found it very productive to hear the issue on all sides. I can sympathize with some of the reasons not to ban the bag. They are being re-used for purposes that people have to use bags for, such as garbage and pet waste collection. They are convenient. They can be recycled into other things. I understand why people like the bags. Unfortunately I don't agree with the reasoning. The harm these bags do does not justify the convenience.

What I use as the point to end the argument is that the disposable plastic bag is a symbol of the unsustainable and irresponsible lifestyle that we have become complacent living. That symbol should viewed as a catastrophe.. not a convenience.

I hope one day people will understand that the choice to have a disposable lifestyle should not be taken. Paper or plastic?... Neither.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Whole New Way of Thinking

Not exactly all-about-plastics, but closely related...and as with every manufactured "thing" these days...plastic is involved somewhere in the chain. The following is a trailer for Manufactured Landscapes, a film about the backside of our consumption - where does all that stuff go when we're "finished" with it? What struck me about this and what made me want to post it on the RAP blog is the very heart of the Rise Above Plastics message - the closing line of the trailer says, "It's not a simple 'right' or 'wrong' - it needs a whole new way of thinking."

Rise. Above. Conventional. "Wisdom".

'nuff said!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Helping Barney Take Care of His Pelagic Bretheren!

I find that a reason that many people use to keep plastic shopping bags around is that they are needed to dispose of their pet waste. When they leave the house or apartment they grab a couple of "old" plastic grocery bags and take Barney out to get some exercise and do his business. Well how exactly are Barney, his poo and you affecting our earth and oceans?

  • Estimates vary, but between 500 BILLION and 1 TRILLION plastic bags are consumed annually worldwide.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States consumes 100 billion plastic shopping bags which take an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to produce.
  • Plastic bags contribute to the deaths of an estimated 100,000 plus sea turtles, seals, whales and dolphins every year and an estimated 1 million seabirds! Refer to the previous posting to see just how big of an impact this has made in Manhattan Beach, California
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 most common things found in Marine Debris
So what if Barney doesn't want to do damage to our oceans every time nature calls? Don't worry there is hope for you and Barney! Yes, there is an alternative for using plastic bags to dispose of pet waste. There are now pet waste bags that are made out of water soluble PVA film. This allows you to take Barney for his walk, let him do his business, pick up after him and then flush the waste down YOUR toilet, NOT the local storm drain. The bag dissolves in the water in less than a minute and the fecal matter is sent to your local water treatment plant where it can be properly handled and treated!

A company that I have recently started buying these bags from is ECOmmitted and the bags are called "Flush Puppies"!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Turtle Bags?

Paper, plastic...or did you bring your Turtle Bag today?

True-life story, ghost-posted for author Anna Donlin,

of West LA / Malibu Surfrider chapter (& Brazil) fame.


While waiting for my coffee at the Bristol Farms in Manhattan Beach recently, one of the store’s grocery checkout ladies came by to say hello to the barrista that was serving me. “Galveston is gone.” said the checkout lady after they exchanged hellos. She had just returned from visiting family in Texas after the recent tropical storm had hit there. Being curious, I joined their conversation.

The checkout lady noticed that I’d brought my own ceramic mug, which changed the conversation to plastics. I mentioned that the take out cup lids, as extruded styrene (Styrofoam), were not recyclable, and that me bringing my own cup was a way that I could reduce waste. She was impressed by the idea. Then the checkout lady brought up the North Pacific Gyre, beating me to it. “It’s awful,” she said, after asking if I knew what it was, swirling her hand in the clockwise circular motion of the gyre. “Yeah, the size of Texas,” I said. She then brought up an experience at the checkout where a customer didn’t believe there was any problem with using plastic, and was brusque about it, asking for a plastic bag explicitly. She gave him his plastic bag…

She got me thinking about the job of being a checkout person. How much plastic do they see used every day? Are they even aware of things or do they battle their conscious when handing out plastic bags like this woman does? How can they be educated/empowered in a Rise Above Plastics campaign?

Then there was one last thing the checkout lady wanted to tell me. Her niece in the UK and her schoolmates use recyclable lunch bags they call “Turtle Bags.” Turtle Bags because plastic bags kill turtles they say. Using the Turtle Bags save turtles. These schools and children have made the association. Let’s import the Turtle Bag idea! It’s much more fun and easier to say than “recyclable bag.”

I left with the checkout lady saying that she was now going to start using a ceramic mug for her coffee and with me declaring that I was so impressed about Turtle Bags story that I’m writing about it here. I love these exchanges where everyone learns something and leaves a little richer for it.

Anna Donlin

Monday, November 17, 2008

Now Packaged With Less Plastic!

In preparing for an upcoming trip I decided I needed some more memory cards for the camera. Costco has the best prices, but I dreaded facing the ubiquitous bulky plastic packaging that comes with buying anything small at Costco. But instead of a huge blister pack with a tiny memory card inside, I found a cardboard placard that I took to the checkout. From there I took my receipt and the placard to Merchandise Pickup and got my memory cards. Much to my pleasant surprise, they were packaged in a small paper packet with only a small plastic window. When I got home I noticed that the lack of plastic was intentional. See photo below: "Now packaged with LESS PLASTIC."

One of our goals with RAP was to find ways to reduce plastic packaging, which is so wasteful and unnecessary. Bravo to SanDisk for taking that step with their products. As I tell people, vote with your dollars, and buy products with the least amount of packaging. Here is a great example!

Power to The Children!

I am a firm believer in the power of children.

Their minds are open to new ideas and new ways of seeing the world around them. For a child it is often simply black or white and right or wrong. They couldn't care less about industry lobbyists, political wrangling or economics, they just want a cleaner, better planet to live on.

This article from Canada's dated November 12 illustrates this very well. A group of sixth graders armed with a poster, a petition and facts headed down to city hall to have their voices heard along with lobbyists and activists!

Students call for ban on plastic bags

Grade 6 class will appear at City Hall as council debates 10-cent discount for going bag-free

With a report from Jennifer Lewington

Look out, you plastics and fast-food industry lobbyists trying to shoot down a city crackdown on packaging waste: A group of precocious, well-researched 11-year-olds in sweater vests and kilts has you in its sights and wants the city to go even further, demanding a ban on plastic bags.


Friday, November 14, 2008

21st Century Waterfall

another reminder to remember your reusable bottle...

Since its recent popularization, bottled water (in all its flavors) has become one of the most consumed, yet least recycled beverages. For example, it is estimated that in 2005 alone approximately 30 billion plastic water bottles were purchased, with only about 12% recycled (in part due to out-dated deposit laws). The remaining 25 billion bottles were either landfilled, littered or incinerated. Obviously that's a lot of bottles, but statistics involving "billions of bottles per year" can be difficult to put into perspective.

This computer animation provides a simple visual comparison of the rate at which plastic water bottles were recycled (approx. 100 bottles/second) to the nonrecycled rate (approx. 845 bottles/second; see image) in 2005. To make it more compelling we simulated and rendered both torrents of plastic water bottles using custom multibody dynamics, collisions, finite-element structural vibrations and sound synthesis.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brita turns up the heat on their ads

Brita is pushing things with their new campaign. The copy says "last year 16 million gallons of oil were consumed to make plastic water bottles."

I don't think many people make the link between the stunning amount of bottled water and use of oil. The Pacific Institute calculated that it takes 3.264 fl oz. of petroleum to make the average plastic bottle.

The math...
17 mil BBL / 28 bil bottles = 0.000607 BBL/bottle
1 BBL = 42 gal
0.000607 BBL/bottle * 42 gal/BBL = 0.0255 gal/bottle
1 gal = 128 fl oz
0.0255 gal/bottle * 128 fl oz/gal = 3.264 fl oz/bottle
More info on that math here.

Buy a bottle that you can use over and over and over here. Or get one with our messaging on it here.

Better yet, buy a whole-house water filter by Brita here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Recycling: Missing the Point..."by That Much"

Reduce, Reuse, then…

…and only in case of emergency, RECYCLE.

Recycling seemed to start as a “good” thing way back when, before drinks were dispensed in plastic bottles, but now (at least IMHO) often suffices for the knee-jerk feel-good justification for picking up a few extra pallets of individual-serving drink bottles, sold in single-use plastics. “It’s OK, I’m gonna recycle them!” – YAY for the environment! Not so fast, Jolly “Green” Giant…

One of the original tenants of the Rise Above Plastics campaign was that yes, “we all rely and use many forms of plastics each and everyday – but much of that use is a convenience choice, a choice that can be swayed toward the proper environmental path, often requiring no more effort on your part”…and sometimes, increasing the fun factor in life (bond with other weirdos that bring their own reusable bottles/cups to the local coffee joint), while helping you burn-in new synapses into your noggin that come with the adoption of new actions and habits.

Even if 99% of all single-use plastics (SUPs) make it to the recycler (the hard part) and are actually recycled (the unknown part), then we still have a monumental environmental waste problem (the tangible part). The dang stuff is produced in unbelievable volumes AND just doesn’t go away! It takes energy & resources to create/ship/dispose-of that bottle that really only has a useful lifetime of ~15 mins, then takes more energy and resources to render it into something yet again. Waste, followed by waste, and compounded by waste. Lots of efforts put together just to produce and handle waste – efforts that, when realized as a waste, can and should be avoided. Nothing worse than wasted efforts – The Who put it well, “They’re all WAAAAYSTED!!”

Lead an examined life, ask yourself “Is it worth it?” – for me, the answer is no. I actively recycle SUPs that other people generate, but if I have to resort to recycling a SUP item that I have “created” by opting to use it, then that’s a failure on my part. Mamma [Earth] don’t like no failures in our family. :) Recycling as a failure – think about that. Recycling as a last resort – act on that.

Perhaps too abstract or radical a shift for the average Joe, but, like it or lump it, it’s where we all need to arrive – and is the conceptual pillar of Rise Above Plastics – “Rise Above” the concept that single-use plastics are worth all of the (hidden?) reasons that they are a bad set of ideas and actions to begin with – a pretty easy path to take, actually. Try it, you’ll like it.

Check the current issue (#68) of Surfers Path, Surfrider page (p42) for the brief “full” original RAP concept – written just about three years ago. Thanks to Surfrider’s HQ Media Maven, Tracey Armstrong, for providing that design narrative intact. Awright!

[and while you're at it, become a Surfrider member & get a Surfers Path subscription here]

Friday, November 7, 2008

Will Economy Affect Plastics Recycling?

Jim Moriarty recently had a poll on his blog, Oceans, Waves, Beaches that posed the question, "Which is more important, the economy or the environment?" I am not sure what the final outcome was but the last time I looked most votes were overwhelmingly for the environment.

I actually put my vote with the economy. Why? Because I believe the rise and fall of the economy directly affects the well being and success of environmental awareness and programs. Recycling has increased with the advent of curbside pick-up, provided by local governments and private waste companies and they are in it for the profit. Some services are included in public utilities services along with your city taxes, some, like the one I use, require a separate monthly payment.

Quite honestly, I only started recycling when curbside pick-up was made available. It was a pain in the but to gather all of my plastics, glass, aluminum and paper, separate it and then drive it 25 miles to the nearest collection center. That collection center also exists to make a profit.

The Rise Above Plastics Campaign with the help of people like Ximena Waissbluth , in my opinion, is doing a great job of educating individuals on the impacts of plastics on our oceans and beaches. The message of reducing and eventually eliminating one's use of single use plastic bottles and bags even got through to me and I have grown up in an area that the majority of the population is not at all environmentally conscious. That in itself is a huge achievement!

However, I would say that most people I know still rely on recycling their plastic bottles, paper, glass and so on and more have jumped on the bandwagon in the past year or so as the result of a friend starting his own private curbside pick-up service. The first and only one that I know of in the entire Rio Grande Valley. Guess what, he is also in it for a profit and has conveyed to me that the future of the company is in doubt due to the recent global economic downturn. The value of recyclable materials has plummeted along with other commodities such as lumber, steel and oil.

So when he goes out of business, does the increase of people recycling as a result of him go with him? Unfortunately I believe the answer is yes.

I could ramble on more about this and fear that I may have already started to do so. I believe the following article on Times Online may provide a better example of the havoc the economic downturn is having on the world-wide recycling industry instead of my own personal experience.

Recycling Waste Pile Up As Prices Collapse

By Lewis Smith, Environmental Reporter

Thousands of tonnes of rubbish collected from household recycling bins may have to be stored in warehouses and former military bases to save them from being dumped after a collapse in prices.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

More on BPA

In regards to the previous posting “CDC criticizes FDA on BPA in the United States,” this is the kind of thing that makes my blood boil. Turns out the FDA’s August report claiming the safety of Bisphenol-A (BPA) was largely based on another report, one commissioned by the American Chemistry Council- a trade group representing chemical manufacturers. In 2004 just over 1 million metric tons of BPA was manufactured by the giants Bayer MaterialScience, Dow Chemical Co, Hexion Specialty Chemicals and Sunoco Chemicals, all ACC members. All making lots and lots and lots of money on BPA, so they fund a study and voila! BPA is safe.
Industry funded science.

The CDC and the NTC (National Toxicology Program), both also under the Dept of Health and Human Services severely rebuked the FDA’s finding, citing that “…the chemical is of some concern for effects on the development of the prostate gland and brain, and for behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children…with some concern for the neurodevelopment of young children, infants and fetuses.” That's not safe, that's dangerous.
The FDA’s mission:


What's the response of the FDA? If you'd like your eyes to glaze over read Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., the FDA’s Commissioner of Food and Drugs, on his Oct 31 blog. Scary.

Here’s one gem from it:
The Agency seeks the new data coming from that revolution. But these new scientific data must be assembled into information and converted to knowledge upon which our regulatory decisions are based. We cannot short-circuit or avoid this process of rigorous analysis, critical assessment, and stringent validation. Only then will we have the strong scientific foundation upon which to make an enduring regulatory decision to approve a product, change a drug label or issue a call for change in or removal of a product.

Yeah, whatever.
In the 1930’s medical experts discovered BPA was estrogenic.
In the 1980’s BPA toxicity was shown in rodents at high doses.
In the 1990’s researchers showed detrimental effects at low doses.
In 2005 they found that doses as low as 0.23 parts per trillion affect cells.
In 2007 a group of the world’s leading experts published a comprehensive set of reviews on BPA and, as Frederick vom Saal, a professor of reproductive biology and neurobiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia said= "This is the kind of thing you would think would scare the heck out of anybody in the public health community."

Keep informed. Pass it on. Call your state legislator, tell him or her that you know about this. Tell him or her that you expect public health decisions to be based upon science, not industry pocketbooks. Pass it on...

Consumer tips for avoiding BPA

CDC Criticizes FDA on BPA in United States

Scientists from CDC, EPA Criticize FDA on Chemical Used in Plastic Bottles

Written by E. Sizemore

October 30, 2008

Baby BottleThis week a seven-member scientific panel, including toxicology and environmental health experts from the EPA and CDC, issued a strongly worded report criticizing the FDA on their response to concerns over products containing bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used in the making of plastic water bottles, baby bottles, food containers and other products from which BPA could leach into food and drinks.

According to the panel the FDA ignored strong evidence to the contrary and used flawed methods when determining that BPA is not harmful. Comprised of scientists from government and universities the report claims that the FDA did not consider dozens of studies linking BPA to diseases and conditions like diabetes, prostate cancer, early puberty and sexual dysfunctions in animals.

Many of the studies pointed out were reviewed by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), which did find that BPA could possibly harm brain development and cause behavioral problems in infants and small children.

In response to the report the FDA, which is in charge of regulating the chemicals used in plastic food containers, agrees that “…due to the uncertainties raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low doses of bisphenol-A that additional research would be valuable.”

According to the CDC, more than 90% of Americans are exposed to trace amounts of bisphenol, which leaches out of water bottles, the lining of cans and other plastic food containers. The level of exposure may increase if such containers are used when microwaving food or heating up milk.

Canada and many other developed countries have already banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and other plastic food and drink containers. The United States has yet to do so, despite overwhelming evidence of BPA’s potentially harmful effects.

The United States’ free-market economy doesn’t always wait for government to regulate the safety of products. Many retailers and manufacturers are already offering non-BPA alternatives like steel drinking water bottles and glass baby bottles. Maybe soon the FDA will catch up with corporate America’s own response to concerns raised by citizens who just want healthy products for themselves and their children.

Below - Female reproductive effects linked to BPA exposure - Environmental Working Group

Monday, November 3, 2008

Plastic Bags... More dangerous than you thought!

Plastic bags are rarley thought to be so dangerous as to kill powerful creatures such as crocodiles... think again.

Plastic Bag Pollution Kills Saltwater Croc - Croc's plastic bags death surprises reef chief
Posted Mon Nov 3, 2008 8:45am AEDT Updated Mon Nov 3, 2008 8:55am AEDT

The crocodile was captured last Friday after menacing residents in waters around Magnetic Island. (ABC News: Sarah West)

The chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) says he is surprised to hear a crocodile swallowed enough plastic bags to kill it.

The crocodile had been relocated from Cape York in far north Queensland and was captured last week after menacing residents in waters around Magnetic Island, off Townsville.

GBRMPA chairman Russell Reicheldt says plastic is one of the biggest pollution problems facing the world's oceans. "I didn't know it was a problem for crocodiles specifically, you tend to hear it more as a problem for turtles," he said.

"But it ... reinforces our general view that the amount of marine debris in the ocean is too much and it's damaging wildlife."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's Not Just In The Pacific

I told someone recently that I went to the Surfrider East Coast Chapters Conference in Virginia to talk about marine debris. She said that they probably didn't feel very connected to the issue over there because they are far from the Pacific, that is, from the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch.'

I yipped "Nooooo- there's one in the Atlantic too! There's one in every ocean, it's because Charlie Moore has done so much research and outreach and gotten media involved that people KNOW about the Pacific Garbage Patch." After a few seconds of digesting- "Ohhhh, I had no idea... I guess that makes sense" she replied.

Garbage is pretty much everywhere on this planet, streaming down rivers and drains and off of beaches. We know that. So it's interesting to think that now that one particular area has been given a name (GPGP) - it exists. That's largely a media thing. I think it's been very useful for our purposes- to describe what is happening with accumulating non-biodegradable trash. But it's critical we don't get too caught up in the one area, because people think it's just There, and, they most commonly ask- Why don't we just clean it up?

The answer really is: because it's EVERYWHERE. (We have to stem the flow. That's way harder and way more complicated than cleaning it up.) So when we talk about the GPGP let's do emphasize that it's the most studied, most well known, likely the biggest due to it's location b/w manufacturers and consumers, but gyres exist in every ocean, so by no means is it the only one. In fact, here is a shout out to sailors- more data collection is needed. If you have a boat, some time, and a desire to get involved in helping out the oceans, give us a shout...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Canada's Possible Plastic Baby Bottle Ban

Canada says BPA toxic, to ban baby bottles with it


TORONTO (AP) — Canada declared a chemical widely used in food packaging a toxic substance on Saturday and will now move to ban plastic baby bottles containing bisphenol A.

The toxic classification, issued in the Canada Gazette, makes Canada the first country to classify the chemical commonly used in the lining of food cans, eyeglass lenses and hundreds of household items, as risky.

"Many Canadians...have expressed their concern to me about the risks of bisphenol A in baby bottles," Environment Minister John Baird said in a statement. "Today's confirmation of our ban on BPA in baby bottles proves that our government did the right thing in taking action to protect the health and environment for all Canadians."

Canada's announcement came six months after its health ministry labeled BPA as dangerous. Health Minister Tony Clement said a report on bisphenol A has found the chemical endangers people, particularly newborns and infants, and the environment, citing concerns that the chemical in polycarbonate products and epoxy linings can migrate into food and beverages.

Baby bottles frequently contain BPA, used to harden plastic and make it shatterproof.

Several U.S. states are considering restricting BPA use, some manufacturers have begun promoting BPA-free baby bottles, and some stores are phasing out baby products containing the chemical. Wal-Mart Canada and other major retailers in Canada in recent months have begun removing BPA-based food-related products such as baby bottles and sipping cups from store shelves.

The scientific debate over BPA could drag on for years. The European Union and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say the chemical is safe. However, the FDA is awaiting word from a scientific panel expected to deliver an independent risk assessment later this month.

The chemicals industry maintains that polycarbonate bottles contain little BPA and leach traces considered too low to harm humans.

Robert Brackett, chief science officer for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said Friday that Canada's precautionary action regarding the use of BPA is disproportional to the risk determined by public health agencies.

The biggest concern with this widely used chemical, traces of which can be found in more than 90 percent of Americans, has been over BPA's possible effects on reproductive development and hormone-related problems.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I love this brochure as it's a metaphor for how our mission is scaling. The "jellyfish bags" image was done by Young and Rubicam Paris, the contents of the birds stomach image on the back pack came from Saatchi and Saatchi in Los Angeles. It was made into a brochure in San Clemente, CA and translated into multiple languages via our global affiliate and chapter network. It then went on the road with Jack Johnson on his recent All At Once Tour.

This is what we mean by connecting the dots. This is what we mean by taking a message to all corners of the world.

This is protection and enjoment of oceans, waves and beaches for all people.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Out the Reusable Bags

On Sunday, October 19, the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation hosted a booth at the Escondido Street Faire. Our goal was to give out reusable shopping bags to those in the community less able to afford them, and encourage people to use them instead of plastic grocery bags. We were able to purchase the bags with a grant from SD County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and a portion of a grant from UPS Mail Boxes Etc.

The booth was a huge success! As a condition to receiving a bag, we asked people to read and sign the Rise Above Plastics Pledge. We had over 1,000 pledges by the end of the day and gave out over 1,500 bags (families received up to 5 bags). We had the pledge in both English and Spanish, thanks to our volunteer Eileen Webb.

Jenn Sgobba, one of our RAP volunteers who happens to be an elementary school teacher, set up a table for kids to decorate their bags. It proved to be very popular! We are hoping that by making the bags their own, the kids will remind their parents to take their bags to the store. We also traded people for the plastic bags they were carrying filling more than 3 boxes with plastic that we will take in for recycling.

The bags were purchased from Enviro Tote and are made from recycled organic cotton, and are made in the U.S.A.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Disposable Bio-Bombs; A South Texas Tradition!

Disposable Diapers. To me these are the scourge of the beaches here in South Texas. It is not uncommon to walk our beaches here on South Padre Island at the peak of summer and see two, three or even five used disposable diapers lying in the sand. Most of the time in the proximity of a nearby trash barrel. Many times in the immediate vicinity of those who threw them there. I have lived here most of my life and have never understood and probably never will understand why these little bio-bombs can't seem to make it in the trash can or even more desirably taken out with those who produced them.

Rise Above Plastics concentrates on single use plastic containers. Typically these are assumed to mean plastic bottles and shopping bags. What about the disposable diaper? Perhaps this is not a noticeable problem on the West and East Coasts of the United States. In the past few months I have been asking people that I have met from California and other places on the West Coast if this is a problem. The majority can not remember ever seeing a disposable diaper on the beach, must less used, except here in deep South Texas.

So as a fellow Surfrider Foundation Activist who just so happens to live in a region where it is sociably acceptable to throw your used disposable diapers on the beach, in the water and on the floor of the public shower, I bring you some scary facts about what I consider the third leg of the plastics consumption threat; non-biodegradable disposable diapers.

  • The back sheet of these diapers are made of polypropylene. This is a plastics polymer that can be used both as a structural plastic or plastic fiber.
  • According the The Texas General Land Office's Adopt-A-Beach program these diapers may take up to 300 years to degrade. Therefore, as with most plastics, all disposable diapers ever made still exist today! This includes places such as landfills, beaches and in our oceans!
  • In the United States alone, over 18 billion diapers are thrown away each year
  • Over 82,000 tons of plastics are used to make those disposable diapers every year
  • In most countries, including most states in the United States, it is illegal to dump human waste in landfills. It is definitely illegal to dump them on our beaches in all coastal communities. However they do end up in both places with the potential to spread polio, hepatitis, dysentery and other serious disease!

As a "humorous" side note Huggies makes a line of disposable diapers called "Little Swimmers". These diapers are designed so that babies and toddlers can go in the water and not have their traditional disposables soak up the water and sag. On the FAQ section of the Huggies website a question asks,
Are HUGGIES® LITTLE SWIMMERS® swimpants biodegradable?

The answer:
No more or less so than disposable diapers. In modern landfills, most materials, including food and yard waste, degrade very slowly, if at all, due to the absence of air, moisture and sunlight. Disposable diapers make up less than 2 percent of landfills, compared to 40 percent for paper (e.g. old newspapers, office waste).

Awesome! The swimming pants that are made to be disposed of and used in recreational water-use such as at the beach are not even biodegradable and beach friendly.

Mind blowing isn't it!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Collective creativity

I listened to an HBR podcast a few days ago that made me think of our Rise Above Plastics campaign. The podcast is an interview with Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar. He talks about managing and honing a collective creative force... which is what I see when I look at Surfrider Foundation in general, and more specifically, what I see when I look at Rise Above Plastics.

Check that podcast out here Subscribe to podcasts at Pluggd

An activist, Ximena Waissbluth, has given the single-use plastics equivalent of an Inconvenient Truth to almost 100 audiences.

Rachel Dorfman, an intern for Surfrider, came up with a ban-in-a-box including some key elements for moving forward at a regional level on single-use plastics bans.

Elizabeth Wiles, another activist, went on the road with Jack Johnson and brought the idea of Rise Above Plastics to tens of thousands of people.

The Rise Above Plastics blog has been re-invigorated with a cadre of six new authors, each bringing a fresh perspective to this issue.

The point is that this idea, the idea of helping people rise above single-use plastics, is owned by many people. Further, many people are shaping and growing the idea. That's an excellent characteristic to have. It's why Wikipedia is so successful. It's why Surfrider keeps growing organically all over the globe.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Plastic bag? 20 cents please...

$180,625 to fight 20-cent bag feeGroup wants issue on ballotLast updated September 11, 2008 10:02 p.m. PT


Paper or plastic or canvas bag has become a high-stakes question in Seattle.

The American Chemistry Council has reported spending $180,625 in August to fight a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic bags that was approved by the Seattle City Council in July.

Most of the money was likely used for signature gathering in an effort to put the issue on a future citywide ballot. The Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax has turned in about 22,000 signatures. That averages out to about $8 per signature. The King County Elections Office will verify the signatures before the initiative can move forward.

The American Chemistry Council is a trade group representing plastics manufacturers. It is based in Arlington, Va.

The group also has been lobbying aggressively against a 25-cent statewide bag fee proposal in the California Legislature.

Backers of the Seattle bag fee say it is needed to help protect the environment. It is set to go into effect in January but could be delayed if the question goes to voters.

The aim is to discourage the use of paper and plastic shopping bags by requiring grocery, drug and convenience stores to charge 20 cents per bag.

In a related action, the City Council also banned plastic foam food and drink containers. The rule also goes into effect Jan. 1.

People can avoid the fees by bringing their own reusable bags when they shop.

The city says it will launch an education effort to help people figure out the best ways to use cloth bags and remember to take them when they go shopping.

The city also plans to give residents a couple of free bags.

The 20-cent-per-bag "green fee" is expected to raise about $3.5 million each year.

Seattle Public Utilities needs about $500,000 to run the program.

The remainder will be used to offset expected increases in the city's solid-waste rates.

P-I reporter Kathy Mulady can be reached at 206-448-8029 or© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Breaking Bad Habits

Rise Above Plastics. A simple concept, right? All one has to do is stop using single use plastic bottles and start using reusable shopping bags at grocery and retail stores. Well at least that's the start. Wow, now that is a perfect example of easier said than done!

To be perfectly honest, I think breaking my smoking habit was a hell of a lot easier than weening myself off of single use plastic containers. Quitting smoking was easy. I started to take Zyban, picked a quit date and changed nothing. I kept smoking as I normally did and on the day that I decided to quit, I just stopped buying and smoking cigarettes. Done.

Yet for the past year or so I have really been trying to cut myself off of these stupid shopping bags and plastic bottles. I have a huge selection of reusable shopping bags in my front hallway in my house and a few in my truck yet still I forget them 60% of the time at those locations. The result, My grocery bill grows by a few dollars every time and I gain one more green bag to be left behind the next time I leave the house.

On the plastic bottle front I am a little more successful and that may be because that there is a water mill a 1/2 block from where I work and it takes no time to go down there and refill my jug every day. Of course it also gives me an excuse to take a long break from what I am doing. At home, we use a Brita filtration system and it is really no longer an issue especially since we rarely drink soft drinks anymore.

But those damned bags!! They are everywhere! It's not enough to remember to bring them with me to the grocery store or a retail store, that is only a fraction of the places that use them. I walk into the hardware store, there they are. I walk into the industrial marine supply company, here you go. I walk into a restaurant to pick up carry out, you guessed it, there they are again. I am not surprised at all that 14,000,000,000 bags are used in the US alone each year. They are constantly being offered to you and are utterly inescapable.

So what is the solution? For me personally, I have started to leave my bags in a bucket on the passenger side floorboard of my truck so I see them every time I climb in or get out and it seems to have helped out. I think I forget them only 20% of the time now.

What about everyone else and you? I don't know if this is even a problem for those who read this blog. I am assuming that many who come here have made a conscious decision to stop using the single use bags and are looking for more stats and numbers to be able to educate others with. That is why I initially started to subscribe to it. And that is where I think lies the key; not to force it upon others but to subtly educate one or two people at a time and let them make the decision on their own.

Forcing others to conform by implementing penalties or bans, in my opinion, is counterproductive. The hair on the back of my neck stands straight up and my face turns red when someone tries to force me to do something I don't understand, or want to do in the first place, and I know that I am not alone. I did not quit smoking because someone made me do it although many have tried. I did it because I saw my Father die of Lung Cancer. BIG WAKE UP CALL!! The man that raised me, was the big bad FBI agent, was in perfect health and my excuse to not face the dangers of smoking died in a matter of months right in front of me. At that moment I was very educated and very motivated.

We need to take all the videos, pictures and statistics that we see and ingest and keep them in the back of our head and when temptation strikes us or when an opportunity to politely influence another arises, we are armed with the right tools to help them and ourselves break our plastics habit.

In order to rise above plastics, we need to help everyone rise above ignorance as well!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Walmart bottled water among 10 polluted brands, study finds


October 15th, 2008, 9:30 am · posted by Nancy Luna, Staff Writer and Blogger

(updated 12:30 p.m. with more comment from EWG, and statement from bottled water industry)

If the latest bottled water study was meant to scare consumers, then this one is sure to get the job done.

Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group released a report this morning stating that 10 popular U.S. bottled water brands contain mixtures of 38 different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol and industrial chemicals.

In many cases, some of the brands had levels “no better than tap water,” the report said.

“Americans paid $12 billion to drink 9 billion gallons of bottled water last year alone,” the watchdog group stated. “Yet, as EWG tests show, several bottled waters bore the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment — a cocktail of fluoride, chlorine and other disinfectants whose proportions vary only slightly from plant to plant.”

The consumer watchdog group went on to name the two biggest brands that performed poorly in its study: Sam’s Choice sold by Wal-Mart Inc. and Acadia of Giant Food supermarkets.

The report did not list the other brands tested because it did not “want people to take away from the report that one bottled brand is safer than another,” said Bill Walker, a spokesman for the group’s California chapter.

EWG, instead, recommends consumers drink tap water, he said.

In California, Walmart’s bottled water bought in the San Francisco area was polluted with disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes, which exceeded California limits for bottled water, the study said.

“Consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified,” the study concluded.

Both retailers defended their bottled water stating they meet health standards and requirements, according to an Associated Press report. The International Bottled Water Association called the EWG report faulty and misleading.

“The report provides results from of a market basket testing program that the EWG conducted on ten brands of bottled water in nine states and the District of Columbia. This is certainly not a representative sample of bottled water products, which the report acknowledges,” the trade group said.

Letter of the month

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wal-mart Commits to Reduce Plastic Bags

Announced as part of the Cinton Global Initiative, Wal-mart commits to reduce the plastic bag waste it generates by one-third. More here from

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Tale of Entanglement

There will never, ever be enough videos to educate about the impact we're making on the globe.

In my mind, it's pretty clear... we're competing with Dancing with the Stars and Grey Anatomy.

We're competing with Yahoo, Goggle and eharmony.

We're competing with the top issues in our collective minds.

When I say we're competing with those things, I mean that in order to get our message across we need a combination of tonage (lots of hits, views, interactions) and targeted media (messaging that makes people go, "hmmm" and change their daily habits). The challenge is that... every other message is also trying to do these things. Thus, we're all competing for mindshare. Check out the above links and you'll better understand the challenge we have.

So, it's with that spirit that I post yet one more educational video for you to view, pass along, agree with or not.

A Tale of Entanglement from Plastic Ocean on Vimeo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Forces of Evil in a Bozo Nightmare

Hey, its Johnny from San Diego back to recap wh'appen (hey can you believe The Beat are back together as a band) with the groundbreaking legislation that was surely going to be passed in Sacramento this year reducing plastic single use shopping bags through the imposition of a fee and lifting the moratorium on localities charging a bag fee. It looked like AB 2058 had died a quiet death to many of us when it didn't make it to the Senate floor for a vote. There was much despair in the enviro community including a threat to wear a plastic bag by at least one over his head when 2058 fizzled. What transpired had intrigue that was nothing short of a John Le Carre novel, okay this is Sacramento we are talking about but it was pretty interesting. "It's Alive!" we cried when AB 2679 was gutted and brought back to life as a plastic bags bill. Lloyd Levine was the Re-Animator! We rejoiced! The new bill had everything we wanted, including a fee for plastic and paper bags as well an exemption for low income shoppers, not to mention grocer support. We fell in love wth AB 2679, but like the summer wind it too was gone never having made it to the Senate floor like its predecessor. The forces of evil won on that day but they must realize that the tide is turning against them and we will come back stronger and more resolute in January.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

NYC fountain drink

Great piece in the NYT on water fountains. Read it here.

Illustration by John Hendrix courtesy of the New York Times.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

San Diego - trying to catch up...!

Well...a big week in Dago (I think people from outside of San Diego call it that?)! Conservative San Diego city & county is creeping toward plastics reduction - WOOT! We had a double-whammy this last Wednesday: another sunny (yawn), mild (yawn) workday (triple-yawn) started ramping up at about 2:05PM - I get a txt message on my phone, "The Bag Monster Lives!" - uh-oh...look out San Diego City Council's Natural Resources & Culture (not-quite-separated-at-birth) subcommittee - the Bag Man cometh!

One of our local Surfrider Executive Committee members, Jared Criscoulo, was about to arrive at city hall in the famous Bag Monster (google it! youtube it!) get-up! (You may remember Jared from last year’s OB street parade jackin’ the energy level in his Captain Jingle Bells outfit…another story for another time…) The Bag Monster suit is made up of ~600 single-use plastic bags – the exact number dispensed EVERY SECOND in California (and was generously loaned to us by the original Bag Monster, made famous at the Santa Monica ban hearing) – and that, combined with his Irish brougham and lament that he’s been banned from Ireland and is looking for a home – but can find none (aw!)…resonated, apparently: the NR&C poo-poo’d the ACC (google it!) plea to ignore all bag ban efforts and opted to pass the proposition of a ban/reduction effort up to the City Council decision-making body. I like to think that I had a hand in it with my semi-destructive attempt to toss free reusable cloth bags (organic!) to the subcommittee members…never underestimate the value of free stuff! Regardless, “up” to the City Council is a nice direction to be moving in, indeed – STAY TUNED!

6pm that night…Encinitas (a San Diego coastal suburb-city) was to consider an ongoing ban/reduction proposal as well. So it was to be item #11 of #18, so no need to get there early, have a nice dinner, Scott, we’ve already got one win today, get your strength bolstered. Then another txt – 7:15-ish – “THEY’RE HEARING IT NOW!”. I have something to add to the two things that are “guaranteed” (death & taxes) – city councils ALWAYS re-jigger the dang item schedule! So, 1) death, 2) taxes and 3) re-jiggering! Luckily Elizabeth and the Rise Above Plastics team energized 17 speakers in favor of the proposal to ban/reduce plastic bags (versus…maybe 3 in the “against” column) – so there was still plenty of good energy to witness. A previous-day email to Surfrider members living in Encinitas brought out a few new faces that had never spoken before a city council meeting – that was the sh*t! People motivated to come out on a Wednesday to speak from their hearts – NICE! We new going in that we had two of the five city council members on our side – we needed just one more – so all of the effort was to find the argument, the statement, the plea or the logic that would speak to any of the remaining three members in a way that would help them reach the right decision. No Bag Monster there to help, and as a non-Encinitas-resident it wouldn’t be proper for me to toss free reusable bags (organic or not) at the Encinitas city council members…so it was just the local RAP speakers that could make the case. …and guess what!! The collection of speakers made their point – and after a 3-2 vote in favor of moving forward with the ban proposal – THERE WAS MUCH REJOICING (ala Monty Python). The eager RAP volunteers got a nice shot of positivity, and a few got some face-time on local TV news programs – they were certainly ready for their close-ups!!

Alright – so, these aren’t full-on denial of across-the-board plastics like bags, bottles, styrene & Styrofoam, but in a conservative corner of the US like San Diego (don’t believe the laid-back/surfy rep hype) these are big revelations! In many ways, our Surfrider plastics-reduction efforts are simple awareness campaigns – bringing it back to Rise Above Plastics – opening people’s minds to their inadvertent actions with the disposable lifestyle and how it has been made overly easy for us to assume – AND how easy it is to eschew! The disposable “lifestyle” is delivered to us by selfish entities that produce garbage (single-use bags, for instance), who now, realizing that their product is undeniably PROBLEMATIC, tell us that the “solution” is to bring this trash back to where we got it for “proper handling” – hmmm…there is a huge design-flaw in there. Is this what has become of American ingenuity?

Chalk up two for the good guys!!!

Oh yeah, one more thing - the very next day, a local semi-hipster-weekly, The San Diego Reader, came out with a nice detailed article on our "Plague of Urban Tumbleweeds" - quoting Elizabeth and Bill from our chapter - SWEET! Check it out here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shop Jimbo's October 11

Jimbo's is a natural foods market with 4 stores in San Diego, comparable to Whole Foods. Saturday, October 11 is Jimbo's Anniversary sale, celebrating over 20 years n San Diego. As part of their celebration, they are eliminating plastic
carryout bags at the register. For that celebration, Jimbo's has selected Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter to
receive 5% of the company's sales from that day. The San Diego Chapter was was selected because of our Rise Above Plastics Campaign, and our efforts at eliminating plastic bag waste from the environment.

On October 11, Surfrider will have tables at each of Jimbo's stores in San Diego County: Carlsbad, 4S Ranch, Carmel Valley and Escondido to talk to customers about Rise Above Plastics. Please stop by and help support the cause!

Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter

City of Encinitas Votes to Ban Plastic Bags

While over the last year we have been posting stories about cities around the world taking action against plastic, our Rise Above Plastics group in San Diego County has been working diligently on convincing the City of Encinitas here to take action as well. Surfrider Foundation volunteers collected close to 2,000 signatures from residents in support of a ban, and last night the City Council voted to adopt a phased in ban, aimed at getting people to use reusable bags, not single-use bags of any kind. The ordinance (yet to be drafted) would prohibit plastic bags and place a fee on paper bags. Stores could opt to sell plastic bags, but could not give them out for free.

From day one, our group faced an uphill battle in Encinitas, since only 2 out of the 5 council members are legitimately "green" and we did not know if we would get that crucial third vote. What was so heartening to me was the statement by one of the council members that he changed his mind to be in favor of the ban after hearing public testimony, read about it here. Surfrider had put the call out for people to come out to support the ban, and the 15 people that spoke in favor of the ban did so eloquently and convincingly, covering all angles. This was truly a grass roots effort.

Since I spearheaded this effort, people have been giving me congratulations, but I don't feel this is a personal victory. Rather, it is a victory for our RAP campaign, our community, the environment, and all of the volunteers who poured time and commitment into demonstrating public support. To them, I say Bravo! for a job well done.

Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Westport, CT the latest to ban plastic bags

From Kasey Jacobs, Vice-Chair of the Surfrider Connecticut Chapter:

Visit to view the four hour hearing/vote from last night. This was one of the best public hearings I've been to in a while. It was well orchestrated and the residents were FANTASTIC!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Plastic bags ALIVE...?

Plastic bags have taken on a life of their own and formed their own grassroots organization: the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition. Talk about evolution! Plastic bags went from non-existence to organizing their own social movement in a span of less than 50 years. Impressive, to say the least.
But are they really alive? According to the Sacramento Bee, plastic bags are fighting for their crinkly lives. Read this article to find out the answer.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Junk Raft nearing Hawai'i

Take 15,000 bottles and strap it to an old Cessna 310 cockpit, make a raft... and sail it from California to Hawaii to raise awareness about plastics in the ocean. Check out the below video from the edge of the North Pacific Gyre

Check out their site here.

Cheer them on and support their journey.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Plastic Surprise

Creative by Saatchi & Saatchi

More seafood.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Action Alert for California - AB 2058 Needs Help!

The American Chemistry Council and bag manufacturers are digging into their deep pockets to fund a campaign against AB 2058 (Plastic Bag Litter Reduction Act). They are spreading misinformation about the environmental and societal impacts of reducing plastic bag usage. For the first time, California has the chance to pass the most aggressive policy to reduce plastic bag consumption. We can’t allow the American Chemistry Council and others to use their large budgets to spread misinformation to legislators and the public.


Under AB 2058, large grocery stores and pharmacies would be required to charge a 25 cent fee for plastic grocery bags, the proceeds of which would be used for local litter abatement, cleanup and prevention programs. This fee-based approach has encouraged shoppers to bring their own reusable bags and has reduced plastic bag consumption in Ireland by over 90%.

Tell your legislator to SUPPORT AB 2058. Let your legislator know that all Californians want to protect their community from plastic bag pollution. Please take a few moments to fill out this form with sample letter and we will hand deliver your letter to legislative offices in Sacramento.

Myths versus Facts

Myth #1: This proposed law is a tax.
Fact: AB 2058 is NOT a tax, it’s “fee by choice”. You can CHOOSE not pay 25 cents if you just remember BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag.

Myth #2: This proposed law will hurt low-income consumers.
Fact: AB 2058 can actually help low-income consumers SAVE money and clean up plastic bag blight in their communities. Under AB 2058, proceeds from the revenue can also be spent on reusable bag giveaway programs.
• Low-income communities are burdened by the blight caused by plastic bag litter in their communities. Los Angeles County spends $18 million per year on litter prevention, cleanup and enforcement activities—tax dollars that could’ve otherwise been invested in public safety, libraries and parks.
• The plastic bag industry is already making a profit off of low-income families that pay upwards of $18 per year in “hidden costs.” Each time you get a plastic bag at the grocery store, you pay 2-5 cents that is already embedded in the price of goods.

Myth #3: There is no need for this law because plastic bags are fully recyclable.
Fact: While plastic bags are recyclable, less than 5% actually get recycled despite aggressive efforts to educate the public and implement recycling programs. California currently spends $25 million per year to landfill plastic bag litter. The quantity of plastic marine debris is rising and WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO RECYCLE OUR WAY OUT OF THIS PROBLEM.

Friday, July 25, 2008

point - counter point

nice little back and forth in the comment area... check out the wend piece here

Thursday, July 24, 2008

LA City Council Votes to Ban Plastic Bags

From the LA TImes, July 22, 2008:

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic carryout bags in the city's supermarkets and stores by July 2010 -- but only if the state fails to impose a 25-cent fee on every shopper who requests them.

Council members said they hope an impending ban would spur consumers to begin carrying canvas or other reusable bags, reducing the amount of plastic that washes into the city's storm drains and the ocean.

"This is a major moment for our city, to bite the bullet and go with something that is more ecologically sensitive than what we've ever done before," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents such coastal neighborhoods as Venice and Playa del Rey.

Tuesday's vote comes as the plastic bag industry, formally known as the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, is fighting efforts to regulate its products. The group filed a lawsuit last week challenging a Los Angeles County plan to reduce plastic bags by roughly 30% by 2010.

Still, a lawyer for the coalition said that as long as the council's decision remains a policy and not a law, he sees no need for a legal fight.

"Why challenge it?" asked coalition attorney Stephen Joseph. "It's not an ordinance."

The council also voted to require city agencies to stop purchasing polystyrene food containers starting next year.

The plastic bag ban was hailed by environmental groups, including Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation. Opponents warned the policy will have a devastating effect on the region's packaging companies.

"When we start banning things and closing factories, where are the blue-collar workers going to go?" asked Anatolio Riegos, a Highland Park resident who works for Pactiv, a packaging company in the City of Industry that has roughly 1,300 workers.

City officials estimate that Los Angeles consumers use 2.3 billion plastic bags each year. An estimated 5% of plastic bags are recycled statewide, according to the city's Bureau of Sanitation.

The ban was proposed by Councilman Ed Reyes, who called plastic bags "the graffiti of the L.A. River ," which passes through his district.

Although the plan originally called for the bag ban to go into effect in 2012, council members Janice Hahn and Richard Alarcon persuaded their colleagues to embrace an earlier deadline.

Alarcon said the council would eventually pass a law regulating plastic bags. But for now, the council's vote is designed to persuade state lawmakers to impose a fee on them.

"If they don't do [a fee], then we do a ban," said Alarcon, who represents the northeast San Fernando Valley . "So yes, at some point there would be an ordinance."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Beach trash, but no beach users?

This one is ugly - NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmopheric Administration) just did the latest in a series of surveys of a stretch of beaches in Alaska, looking mainly for shipping and fishing cast-off debris - basic marine debris like nets, floats, etc.

They found the usual stuff, and though the data has "not been fully analyzed", the most marked difference in "deposits" since the last survey (in 1994) is...oh yes, "hundreds and sometimes thousands of plastic drink bottles littering almost every kilometer of the surveyed shoreline" which were further described as being "easy to notice".

Read up on it here.

While you're there, poke around in the Photo Gallery and seek out Marine Debris 101 to find shots of Sources, Impacts & Solutions - lotsa good stuff from the superstars at Ocean Conservancy. The Impacts==>Wildlife page has some shocking images, so beware.

Thanks to Rick Wilson, Surfrider's Coastal Management Coordinator, for this one.