Wednesday, March 31, 2010

DC Bag Fee Update: January Numbers

Here are the numbers for January 2010, the first month of the fee implementation:

> -86%: Plastic and paper bag dispensing DOWN (22M bags/month prior to fee, 3M after fee). 86%!!!

> +$150,000: Raised for Anacostia River Cleanup Fund conservation raised in the month of January. Projected $10M (million!) over four years.

> 45-60%: Local “acceptance” of the concept and value of the fee.

Read the other details in the Washington Post article. WOOT!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brits Bash Bottles!

...well, and all oceanic plastics, for that matter. And rightly so, as oceanic trash does not respect international boundaries! Two gob-smacking articles from UK periodicals this week detail 1) a Telegraph piece detailing the Pacific Gyre trash problem, and 2) a BBC item describing the rising level of plastic detritus washing up on the shores of the British Isles.

The Telegraph article is kind of old news about the gyre overall, but worth the read and associated Euro-perspective, for sure. And frankly, all continued drumbeats on the garbage patch problem help dispel the "urban legend" that still hangs above this phenom in some quarters. ...and just so ya know, the Atlantic Gyre is growing just as rapidly...check this slide show out, and see image #7 for Algalita/5Gyres' Marcus and Anna sporting Portland, Oregon Surfrider shirts, while showing off Atlantic Ocean plastic trash.

As for UK beach trash, the BBC article details stats from Marine Conservation Society's ("MCS" - send one of their beach trash e-cards) shore cleanups that boast 63% plastics (lucky them, we are finding 74% plastics here in So Cal beach cleans). In addition to listing a "joke severed finger and a set of vampire teeth" (I thought they spelt it "vampyre" there, oh well) - the article repeats the assertion that "Ultimately, plastic litter may be providing a new method for these chemicals [persistent organic pollutants absorbed by oceanic plastics] to be passed up the food chain to human consumers." Sushi is so...nineties.

Good news that this info is still getting out there via major outlets, bad news that it still has to get out there...absobloodylutely!

Upward & Onward...and of course, Cheerio!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

DOW Rips...Itself!

Que lastima!

In this plastics-industry rag article, DOW chemical admits to the sham that biodegradable plastic are – and that they “are not a solution to our problem”. Aha! Clear admission that 1) their products are a “problem”, and that 2) phoney-baloney “biodegradable plastics” are still just a pipe-dream…

Is it just too difficult to simply make permanent, durable stuff out of plastic and avoid the instant-trash, convenience-based throw-aways that single-use plastics are? Instead, the plastics manufacturers prefer to dump the responsibility of plastics waste and litter recovery back to us through “increased rates of recovery and recycling of plastics”.

On the fleeting bright side of this problem of plastic pollution, DOW suggests that, “the industrial sector has been guilty of 'insufficient participation' in finding a solution”. Wow - a big and rare revelation by The Industry - let there be much rejoicing!

This is all in reaction to Mexico’s single-use plastic bag ban, which the plastics industry claims is being poorly managed. Hey, bienvenidos a Mexico, Jorge – maybe planning to avoid the pollution situation that you’ve caused for an entire country should have been thought out before this breaking point, instead of after this “populist measure”, ya think? Get used to “populist measures”, we have them planned all over the globe. ;)

Mexico is feeling the brunt of plastics pollution, and is responding with legislation – perhaps a last resort. But when dealing with an unneighborly adversary like the plastics people, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do…unfortunately, Mexico does not have the infrastructure to recycle (whilst whistling a happy tune, as the plastics industry thinks it happens) the volumes of plastic throw-aways that are foisted upon them by manufacturers, so are attempting to legislate the problem down to controllable levels.

Buenas Suerte!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Story of Bottled Water

From the Story of Stuff Project, "The Story of Bottled Water"......

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hawai'i Bag-Fee Update & Action Alert!

This update is from Surfrider's Hawai'ian Islands Field Coordinator, Stuart H. coleman - with an Action Alert opportunity in the fourth paragraph below to contact a local HI representative with your opinion:

"After talking with folks at the Capitol, I've learned that this bill has a lot of momentum and a good chance of passing this session. Robert Harris from Sierra and I talked this morning (see his thoughts below), and we both agree that we should continue to support this bill. But we should also ask that the amendment to supersede the bans on Kauai and Maui be dropped.

SB2559 is a good bill and would make Hawaii the first state in the country to impose a fee on plastic and paper bags (which are equally bad for the environment). Using a similar fee, Ireland reduced plastic bag use by 90% in one year, and the recent $.05 fee in DC has already reduced use by 60% in the first couple of months. So we know the program works and encourages people to bring reusable bags, reducing the amount of plastic and paper bag pollution.

Given the political reality that it would be near impossible to pass a ban on Oahu or across the state, I would encourage folks to support SB2559 because it will greatly reduce the proliferation of single-use plastic and paper bags across the Hawaiian Islands. In this economy, a $.05 fee is all we can afford right now, but legislators may be able to raise it as we begin to phase out the use of plastic and paper bags.

So please call or email Rep. Marcus Oshiro (808-586-6200, and ask him to give SB2559 a final hearing in the Finance Committee. Also, contact your legislators and ask them to drop the amendment (HRS342 H-E) to preempt the county bans on Kauai and Maui. Mahalo for all your hard work and support this year!

Aloha, Stuart

PS I spoke with Gordon, the Chapter Chair on Kauai, and he was obviously disappointed to hear about the preemption of the ban they worked so hard to pass. But he also acknowledged that this fee bill would be better for the state as a whole and was willing to support it. Here's an excerpt from Robert's email to the folks who helped pass the ban on Kauai:

I understand your frustration. Iʻm rather upset to see the late addition of the preemption language, particularly after there was pretty firm opposition to it by the Chairs of the two subject committees.

Let me suggest a slight tweak to your message. I believe it would be a mistake to question whether a fee would get people to change their behavior. There is evidence proving the point. For example, Ireland saw a 90% reduction in use of plastic bags. DC saw a 60% reduction within the first month of enacting their bill. For some reason, people will do a lot to avoid losing a nickel out of their pocket, even though they wouldnʻt get out their chair if you offered to pay them a nickel (there is a social psychology explanation for this phenomena, but I wonʻt pretend to understand it).

Right now a number of groups are trying to figure out the scale question. Assuming even a very low 60% reduction across a population of 1.3 million, thatʻs still comparably a lot more paper and plastic bags eliminated in comparison to a ban on only plastics on Kauai and Maui."

Vancouver, BC, Canada Pursues Bag Ban!

A story about Maya Stano, the Vancouver, British Columbia Surfrider chapter's Rise Above Plastics campaign manager, was recently published in The Runner e-zine. Maya is an environmental engineer (now studying Environmental Law!) and is tackling the finer points of the issue from all legal and technical angles...not to mention the difficulty of enforcing the ban.

Read up on Maya's adventures here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


So…though recycling is a last resort to the true ‘enviro’, it is nice to have the option, nonetheless. Take a look at the plastic bottle in the photo. This is an anti-recycling, convenience-enhancing (like nearly all items that later become litter blight) oddity of manufacture.

Can we recycle it as is? Ya know, the whole numbered-plastics thing is confusing enough to general consumers, much less to the dedicated greenie. Couple that with the problem that clear-plastic PET bottles that are tossed into the recycling bin with their polypropylene caps still screwed on can “ruin” an entire load of otherwise homogeneous #1/#2 recyclables. So what do ya do with this “new & improved” thing? What the h*** is the green part made of? Is it recyclable? Do I have to risk my life removing the green part with a box cutter first? Is it worth the hassle?

Conclusion: confusing piece of junk! Just when John Q. Public is getting the hang of identifying what is and what aint recyclable, this monstrosity comes along. Thank you to the always spunky, enterprising and erstwhile plastics manufacturers!

A good friend of mine is a tattoo artist that refers to now-‘au populaire’ neck tattoos as “job-stoppers” – now, in that same light, we see this kind of bottle, with its own green neck tattoo-esque attachment/appliqué, as a Recycle-Stopper. Vote with your dollars – if you must buy something in a plastic bottle, smartly avoid this kind of dopey amalgam!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Missing the Point?? #2

Plastics manufacturers, on one of their websites, at least partially own up to having a hand in the problems of “pollution and marine debris” in this recent article. (Side bar: “marine debris” is the plastics industry’s term for oceanic plastic pollution…their term just sounds better. Don’t be swayed by the double-talk – marine debris is made up of stuff like logs, dead whales and…the Flying Dutchman. Plastic pollution is called “plastic pollution”.)

Another part of the article mentions that plastics manufacturers need to “raise the profile of bag recycling efforts” – that, instead of actually taking a lead in collecting and dealing with their own instant trash, known commonly as “single use plastics”. The plastics industry is all about promoting the idea of us common citizens doing the actual work of cleaning up after their products. Kinda Us VS Them, in a nutshell. It’s not how responsible citizen-manufacturers should handle problem situations. But, then again, they ain’t responsible citizens of the local neighborhoods feeling the brunt of the resultant pollution, so why would they care, right?

It’s a sad state that the grinning “suit” in the byline misses the point that his group creates a nearly-instant item of trash – essentially handing it to us along with the burden of dealing with its apparently-too-tricky disposal (“too tricky” in that much of it ends up as pollution & litter, despite all of the industry’s sweat-soaked efforts to the opposite). It’s not often that someone hands me a piece of their trash to deal with, but the plastics industry exercises this action as an everyday function of “normal” business. When we try to better our surroundings by stopping the flow of this waste into our community…their idea of helping to address the problem is to sling a lawsuit at us and tell us that we are “anti-business”…niiiice. Luv ya buddy, come over for dinner sometime, NOT!

Again, the plastics industry is not a “neighbor” in the figurative (much less the literal) sense of the word - they demonstrate to us that they are a simple entity bent on simple survival, simple self-preservation, simple easy MONEY, and simply trampling any efforts that seek to better the environment and…our neighborhoods, efforts which may harm their too-simple business model. Small minds seeking the least creative, collaborative, and constructive solutions. A lawsuit? C’mon, that’s grade school, playground-diplomacy thinking – d’you mean to tell us that you can’t think of a way to 1) fix the problem that you created, 2) make money doing it, 3) become champions of communities AND 4) set an example for other industry? A 1) win, 2) win, 3) win, 4) win opportunity - Try it, you’ll like it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hawai'i's Bag Fee Legislation

So, here I am on my wonderful Hawai’ian vacation (actually free-boardin’ at Mom’s), suckin’ up moco loco & pancakes at Zippy’s, bustin’ out the Honolulu Advertiser, Aloha Friday edition (swell don’t arrive ‘till Monday)…and lo & behold, there is an Op/Ed page piece by Stuart H. Coleman, Surfrider’s own Hawaiian Islands Field Coordinator, concerning a pending state-wide legislative bill that would implement a 5-cent fee for all plastic bags dispensed at grocery checkout. Can we call this “Hawai’I 0-5”? (queue the drums of the TV show theme song.)

Maui and Kaua’i have already enacted county-wide (each island is its own county of the same name) bans that will take effect 1/1/11. There is a chance that the new proposed fee, being statewide, could supersede the outright bans on those two islands. Not what we’d like to see, frankly, but as the saying goes, “somes better’n none”. Stay tuned for that teapot tempest.

Details about the fee (not a “tax”, haole-boy) are in Stu's Op/Ed item and in a local KITV feature report. Of course, we’d love to see a higher fee being proposed, but this may work well here as retailers & legislators both see it as "relatively painless" – and, as we’ve found in places like Washington DC, even a small fee can change the knee-jerk acceptance of these insipid items of environment-threatening instant trash.

Sidebar note: The KITV video also actually shows Stuart doing a bit of grocery shopping too – dispelling any rumors that after becoming “rich and famous”, as the author of the best selling Island-based tomes Eddie Would Go and last year’s Fierce Heart, that he has his own personal shopper taking care of that mundane task - check ‘um out, bra!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Additional Surfrider Videos

This week’s “Plastic Kills” video has proven so popular, it may be time to re-play some other Surfrider RAP-related videos. In no particular order (watch 'em FULL SCREEN!):

A nice one from the South OC (think "Save Trestles") chapter:

SOC Surfrider Foundation Commercial: "Plastic Has No Place Here" from Ryan Fitzgerald on Vimeo.

One comical one from Surfrider’s Europe affilate, featuring a cranky ocean:

A haunting one, showing a possible look at our future beachscapes:

Hold On To Your Butt” is a global anti-cigarette waste Surfrider campaign, put together by moon-lighting Hollywood animators – just so ya know, butts R plastic too...

Surfrider PSA from Matuse Inc. on Vimeo.

This last one is not affiliated with Surfrider, but was a nice find over on YouTube:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reusable Bottle Design Contest

GOOD [on-line] magazine is hosting a Kleen Kanteen reusable bottle design contest.

The bad news: Entries are no longer being accepted. (Sorry for the late notice!)

The GOOD news: You can view and vote on the ten ‘best’ designs here…until Friday.

Now…you won’t see any Surfrider "Rise Above Plastics" designs there, BUT you can vote with your dollars and buy an already-made RAP stainless steel bottle at the Surfrider Foundation schwag website.

Bottoms UP!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New RAP Video - Verrry Niiice!

Rise Above Plastic - Plastic Kills! from Surfrider Foundation on Vimeo.

Portland-based creative agency Borders Perrin Norrander (bpn) recently launched the Surfrider Foundation Public Service Announcement (PSA) Rise Above Plastics for international use. The digital spot features a whale swimming through a sea of plastic pollution desperate to reach the open surface. The whale soon becomes completely coated with plastic debris as he breaches through a floating bed of plastic bottles, bags, and soda rings, where he remains beached. The camera then widens to an aerial view and we see the extent of the floating island of plastic.

Creative Director on the spot Jeremy Boland brought the concept to LAIKA/house and Sorenson after the motivation formed on a rainy Portland day as Jeremy watched trash flow down a street sewer grate near a local playground.

Walking into work one morning I saw a bunch of plastic, man-made waste filtering through a street drain and thought about how most people never think about its final resting place, our oceans,” said Boland. “The Freudian thing about trash for most people is that if it‚s out-of-site then it‚s out-of-mind. The juxtaposition of our future leaders playing in the school’s playground and plethora of plastic waste spurred me to think about how I could raise awareness of its negative effects on marine life. I knew the spot should have a stylistic appeal and a humanism that is easily communicated to all demographics through animation.

Working in conjunction with animation experts LAIKA/house, the team took a unique approach to the PSA‚s creative. LAIKA/house Director Aaron Sorenson married traditional 2D design and animation with computer graphic (CG) animation to produce a character and environments that retain a handmade, human touch. The whale, first seen swimming unencumbered in the ocean, was hand drawn and animated, while the plastic debris was created in CG.

The Rise Above Plastics Program is the Surfrider Foundation’s response to the problem of plastic litter in our ocean and marine environments. The goal of the program is to educate the public on the impacts single-use plastics have on marine environments, and how individuals can make changes in their daily lives and within their communities that will stem the flow of plastics into the environment. RAP also calls upon people to reduce their plastic footprint by reducing or eliminating the use of products such as single-use plastic water bottles and plastic bags.

Plastic pollution is one of the most compelling environmental issues out there today,” says Angela Howe, who heads Surfrider Foundation’s Rise Above Plastics program. “Education and outreach are the critical first steps towards solving this problem. We are excited to be adding this beautiful and poignant piece of advertising to our campaign to address plastics in the environment.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Great News for California Bag-Banners!

As you may know, California's unique environmental laws have been used to staunch the tide of efforts to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. Essentially, money-grubbin' plastics manufacturers have been suing municipalities that attempt to enact a bag ban - pretty much saying, "Up your nose with a rubber hose, suckers! We want the money more than you need to clean up your neighborhoods and oceans!". Well, Green Cities California has produced something to assuage the $100,000-$300,000 cost of the lawsuits. It's called a "Master Environmental Assessment" and can be shared across cities and counties that wish to enact a ban w/o the high cost of American Chemistry Council (plastics manufacturers) lawsuits. Here's the announcement (WOO-HOO!):


Dear Friend,

Today Green Cities California (GCC) released a Master Environmental Assessment (MEA) on the impacts of single-use and reusable bags.

The report - commissioned by GCC with the support and collaboration of multiple partners - was completed by ICF International. Set within the context of the California Environmental Quality Act, it will help jurisdictions prepare environmental impact reports, a critical step in the process to promote the use of reusable bags.

The MEA is available now for free on

Kind regards,

Carol Misseldine, Coordinator
Green Cities California

For Immediate Release


Carol Misseldine, Coordinator

Green Cities California (415)388-5273
Terry Rivasplata
ICF International
(916) 231-9537

Paper or Plastic? Neither!

New report will help cities promote reusable grocery bags

March 8, 2010 - Green Cities California (GCC) announced today the release of its Master Environmental Assessment (MEA) on Single Use and Reusable Bags. The MEA, commissioned by GCC and developed by ICF International's Sacramento office, summarizes existing studies on the environmental impacts of single use plastic, paper, compostable and reusable bags, as well as the impacts of policy options such as fees and bans on bags.

"This is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive compilation of existing studies on bags aligned within the context of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), which makes it useful in the preparation of local Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs)," said Terry Rivasplata of ICF International.

"All Environmental Impact Reports must begin with a survey of existing scientific literature," said Carol Misseldine. "For those jurisdictions that must prepare an EIR in order to adopt ordinances that promote the use of reusable bags, this MEA will provide essential assistance."

The MEA reviewed studies that document environmental impacts from the use of all four types of bags studied, including greenhouse gas emissions, persistent litter problems, marine life impacts, water consumption and ozone formation. The report also examined the impact of fees and bans and noted that bag use drops dramatically - up to 90% -- when stores charge for them.

Further studies referenced in the MEA indicate that reusable bags, on a per use basis, have substantially lower environmental impacts than single use bags. The study finds that even with a minimum of three uses, reusable bags can result in less atmospheric acidification, ground level ozone formation, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions.

"I'm getting calls from jurisdictions throughout California and even from other parts of the country interested in the information contained in this document," said Misseldine. "There seems to be a lot of interest nationwide in reducing single bag use."

"We're not going to recycle our way to a sustainable society," said Dean Kubani, GCC Steering Committee member and Director of Santa Monica's Office of Sustainability. "We need to orient away from single use and towards durable products. We are confident that this report will provide the documentation local governments need to adopt policies that encourage the use of reusable bags and phase out single use bags."

The full report, an executive summary and background information on the MEA will be available on Green Cities California's website on Monday March 8th at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Refuse the Bag!

This is pretty nifty, funny and informative all at once. Created by the accomplished fashion illustrator, Julia Durgee, for a plastic bag awareness event in New York City's Union Square...she has graciously given us permission to drop it on you here, for your use.

Click on it (to enlarge), then right-click the image on the next page, and "Save as...", print it up, tape it onto your chest, smile wide and let your freak-flag fly!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Current PolyStyrene Ban List

Polystyrene, extruded-polystyrene, styrofoam, aromatic polymer...or whatever-ya-call-it: Public Enemy 1.01! Following is a list of current, ongoing and planned polystyrene take-out, single-use, food-container bans. Most are in California, though the trend is spreading. Look for your town on the list - if it's not there, prod your local Surfrider chapter and help them get crackin' on it!

"Foodware" is the most eggregious use of the stuff. Smart eaters avoid any hot food that's been touchin' that form of plastic. Ever microwaved a meal in one of those take-out containers?? The process welds the plastic to the food, bLOrP! just placing warm food in a container of that material gives me the heebie-jeebies. ...and nobody likes the heebie-jeebies.

At my local beach, especially on Monday mornings, the area is strewn with the stuff, as if a styro-bomb had gone off overnight, WAH-BAM-poof! Truth is - the seagulls attack the containers in the trash cans and rip it to pieces searching for every last food particle therein...with the ocean just steps away. The stuff is Trouble...with a capital "T". Get it out of your community, tout de suite!

Below the following city list is a set of links to more info on polystyrene ban efforts. HAVE AT IT!


Bans on all Polystyrene Food-Ware

1. City of Del Rey Oaks
2. City of Laguna Beach
3. City of Monterey
4. City of Richmond
5. City of San Bruno
6. City of Santa Monica
7. City of West Hollywood

Bans on Expanded Polystyrene Food-Ware

8. City of Alameda
9. City of Berkeley
10. City of Calabasas
11. City of Capitola
12. City of Carmel
13. City of Emeryville
14. City of Fairfax
15. City of Hercules
16. City of Laguna Beach
17. City of Malibu
18. County of Marin
19. City of Newport Beach
20. City of Oakland
21. City of Pacific Grove
22. City of Pacifica
23. City of Palo Alto
24. City and County of San Francisco
25. City of Santa Cruz
26. County of Santa Cruz
27. City of Scotts Valley

Partial Bans (usually prohibits city purchasing, or use by city vendors, contractors, or at city sponsored events)

28. City of Alisio Vejo
29. City of Huntington Beach
30. City of Laguna Woods
31. City of Laguna Hills
32. City of Los Angeles
33. County of Orange
34. City of Pittsburg
35. City of San Clemente
36. County of San Mateo
37. City of San Juan Capistrano
38. City of San Jose
39. County of Sonoma
40. County of Ventura

• City of Fremont
• City of Arcata
• City of Milpitas
• City of El Cerrito
• City of San Pablo
• City of San Jose
• Boston
• Chicago
• New York City


Bans on all Polystyrene Food-Ware

1. Rahway, New Jersey
2. St. Paul, Minnesota

Bans on EPS Food-Ware

3. Issaquah, Washington
4. Seattle, Washington
5. Portland, Oregon
6. Freeport, Maine
7. Westchester, NY


==> Here is a great list that features links to each city's info - either a copy of the actual ordinance or an explanation of that city's ban's specifics - NICE JOB VIV!!

==> The "McToxics" campaign and historical efforts to phase out Styrofoam.

==> In CA one of the PS food serviceware lead groups is Californians Against Waste.

==> Lots of other (older) good info can be found here.