Friday, April 29, 2011

Texas Lege Attempts To Ban Plastic Bag Bans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ACTION (polystyrene ban), REaction (paper bottles)

Happy Tuesday - the day of the week in which all get productive!

First off - ACTION: California is shootin' for a state-wide polysytrene (StyroFoam) take-out food-container ban - go here to sling an email to your "elected" that encourages them to support the ban. All ya gotta do is enter your California zip code, and the application will figure out your designated State Senator, and even write the email to them, supporting the ban - EEEEAZY - go now!

Secondly, REaction: sick of plastic bottles (side bar: one attendee called the grounds of SoCal's annual & recently-held and once-eco-friendly-music-fest Coachella 2011, "a sea of empty plastic water bottles" - YUK!)?? - so are the people at BrandImage - they have come up with a paper water bottle. Clever yes, but is it reusable - well, yeah, kinda...better than not. A step in the right direction, fer sher...hopefully, tho, someday we can force ourselves to be reverse-weaned from our disposable water bottle ("bah-bah", as we called it in infancy) addiction...? Start now!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Colby College Dumps Bottled Water!

Colby College in Maine said hello to Earth Day on Friday. And goodbye to bottled water!

A three-year student-led campaign against the ubiquitous clear plastic containers culminates when remaining bottles are removed Friday from the shelves at the Colby Bookstore and the Spa, Colby’s on-campus snack bar. Sarah Sorenson ’11, who led the campaign called “Take Back the Tap,” announced that Colby’s athletic teams also agreed this week to forgo purchasing cases of bottled water for games and road trips beginning next semester.

Sorenson, president of the Colby Environmental Coalition (Enviroco), reported that the student organization already persuaded officials to virtually eliminate bottled water from catered events on campus, including meals, lectures, and meetings, and from campus-wide events such as commencement, reunion weekend, and orientation.

All together the efforts will have removed more than 10,000 bottles a year from the waste stream and will save thousands of dollars in purchase costs. “This is a great example where a student, working with faculty, staff, and the administration, can effect real change,” said Douglas Terp, Colby’s vice president for administration and chair of the College’s Environmental Advisory Group.

Alternatives introduced to replace bottled water on campus include pitchers of tap water at events, bulk containers, and reusable water bottles. The College has installed several new water stations, including fountains with spigots designed for filling water bottles.

Cheers to Colby for helping to lead the way and take back the tap! What a great way to Rise Above Plastics, Click Here for the full story.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Great Day For Some Greenwashing!

No Glee from Environmentalists for Coca-Cola “Plant Bottle”. We got this info recently from our friends at the Earth Resource Foundation after a last-minute invite for an Earth Day dog and pony show to launch Coke's new plastic bottle. (Photo Courtesy of Beth Terry - Hawaii)

"Some California environmental groups got a last minute invite to an unusual spectacle taking place on Earth Day to launch Coke’s new “plant bottle” packaging for Coca-Cola brand “Dasani” bottled water. The invitation cheers the “exciting packaging advancement” that will allow Coca-Cola to bottle its plain old municipal water without the coke syrup in a bottle that is “made with up to 30 percent plants – and up to 30 percent less petroleum.”

“Although our event is taking place this Friday – and we apologize for the short notice – we really would love to see you there. The event is a fashion show featuring models clad in garments made from plants that cover up to 30 percent of their bodies. The show will be hosted by actor and singer Matthew Morrison from FOX TV’s “Glee.”

Again, we apologize for the short notice, and we sincerely hope you can fit it into your busy schedule. Please RSVP… “

On behalf of environmentalists in the know about plastic packaging and bottled water, we send our regrets, as follows:

1. We Regret that while many areas of America face drought, your bottling of municipal water uses three times as much water in the process of bottling it as the amount of water that came from the tap to fill the bottle.

2. We Regret that despite your green leaf logo, your “plant bottle” is still just a PET plastic bottle and is not biodegradable or compostable on land or at sea.

3. We Regret that Coca-Cola will not be collecting and recycling their own PET “plant bottles,” and that only approximately 20.9% percent of PET bottles are “recycled” (mostly into lower grade material that is not used in bottles again) in America. The remainder, at over 20 billion bottles, last forever in our landfills or in our environment, including our oceans. We also regret that Coca-Cola failed to achieve it’s own pledge of using at least 10% recycled content in PET bottles and has just announced the shut down of its PET recycling joint venture in South Carolina.

4. We Regret that Coca-Cola is substituting its chemical-laden petroleum plastic bottle with a chemical-laden petroleum and plant plastic bottle.

5. We Regret that estrogenic compounds in your PET “plant bottle” may leach into the water and impair human health and reproduction.

6. We Regret that advertising has tricked people into believing that bottled water is safer when in fact your product has been recalled for contamination and gets a grade of “D” on Environmental Working Group’s evaluation of bottled waters.

7. We Regret that Coca-Cola Corporation has been so slow to properly label the source of the tap water that it bottles.

8. We Regret that single servings of water are sold in disposable packaging that will last longer than any of us will be on this planet, and that future generations will have to deal with our waste.

9. We Regret that you aren’t screening the documentaries Tapped and Bag It! at your event.

10. We Regret that Matthew Morrison, a beloved singer and actor, is involved with such a green washing sham. We wish he talked with us first.

And although we appreciate the promise of 30% clad models, we believe it would be more appropriate for your models to be nude, as in “the emperor has no clothes” because this kind of green washing doesn’t fool us at all."

Well put!! Click Here and take a moment to sign the petition yourself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'Bag It' Webcast with Jeb!

Earth Day has blown up and turned into Earth Month as everyone is trying to ride the green wave. Hopefully they are not just posers and are the real-deal soul surfers that will truly make a positive impact.

The folks from the award-winning documentary film 'Bag It' are the real deal and are putting on a cool webcast tomorrow in honor of Earth Day. Sure, you have probably seen the movie already but this is your chance to check it out again, this time with an interactive Q&A with Bag It director Suzan Beraza, film star Jeb Berrier and special guests!

Point your browser to at 9:15 pm EDT on Thursday, April 21 and join the fun!

Monday, April 18, 2011

What Is The #1 Single-Use Plastic Item?

If you said cigarette butts, you are correct! Only 15-20% of the US population smokes but the cigarette butt waste seems overwhelming. Since butts are made from cellulose acetate, a type of synthetic plastic, they can be considered a single-use plastic. No one wants to reuse those toxic butts, but our friends at Ripple Life are looking for ways to recycle them.

Data from the Ocean Conservancy show that in 2009, over three million (3,216,991) cigarettes or cigarette filters were removed internationally from beaches and inland waterways as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), including 1,362,741 collected from the U.S. This represents 28% and 35% of total debris items collected worldwide and in the U.S., respectively, making it by far the most prevalent item found.

Surfrider started our Hold On To Your Butts program in 1992 as local surfers were fed up from cigarette waste at the beach. The idea that Gary Sirota and Oscar Gonzales started blossomed into a successful awareness program that helped to spur smoke-free beaches in San Diego, outdoor ashcans in local communities and the super-fun annual Hold On To Your Butt day each year.

But, it's not enough. While the beaches are cleaner, there is increased butt waste on the streets and sidewalks that the additional outdoor ashcans are not catching. What else can be done? Maybe stricter litter enforcement from police or greatly increased producer responsibility programs from the cigarette manufacturers?

Tune in tomorrow (Tuesday April 19th at noon Eastern) for a special webcast in observance of Earth Day 2011 focusing on how public health experts, policy leaders, environmental activists and even the tobacco industry can help prevent and put an end to this type of toxic waste. Point your browser to and join in on the discussion.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hawaii RAP Ads (...and my foot)

Why all the recent buzz about Hawaii on the RAP blog? NOAA recently hosted it's sorta-semi-annual "Marine Debris" (not our choice of title) Conference, so, of course, ya gotta pack the sunscreen and check it out! What we have here today is a small collection of advertising "collateral" that the Hawaii Surfrider chapters (Kaua'i, Maui, O'ahu, Big'Island) have been using to get the Rise Above Plastics word out there and IN YO FACE!

The first two (top left and Barbie, on the right) have already appeared in Green Magazine Hawaii and the third one (bottom left) is actually a photograph of two 4'x 5' art pieces made by artist Susan Scott which are made of plastic items found in the ocean (lotsa lighters and bottle caps in their "native" colors) - and they are the most intricate I've seen of that genre - take a closer look!

The last shot is of my pudgy foot on Oahu's Kahuku beach, over on the north east side of the island...4 days after a beach cleanup was conducted there. We were told that, for Oahu, it is THE beach that gets the brunt of the plastic-trash spin-out from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Pretty plasticy if you ask me...and coming to a beach near you, if we don't start whoopin'-*ss on the problem NOW.

Click on any of the images for a more detailed view! ...and as always have an ONO ("tasty") weekend!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bag Bans Work - Maui Style

Just look at these photos from Maui and decide for yourself. It seems they are having a little trouble getting 100% compliance from all of the local stores but the impact has been immediate. Plastic bags were phased out on January 11th and bag litter seems to have decreased dramatically.

I was fortunate to be there on vacation a few weeks back and stoked to see the new ordinance. But, I was a bit bummed to see how many people simply switched to paper bags. I always travel with a couple of reusable bags and had them ready at the check out stand but why were there so many people plowing through the paper bags? The store have big signs reminding customers to 'BYO' but increased awareness is needed. Or maybe a 5-10 cent fee on paper bags? It still gives people options, and a little more incentive to remember their reusable bag.

Click Here for the full story from The Maui News.

Monday, April 11, 2011


That's what Greener Upon Thames in the U.K. is proposing and it sounds good to us! They are trying to persuade London Mayor Boris Johnson and Olympic organizers to host a plastic-bag-free Olympics in 2012 and calling for a total ban on all outlets at the Olympics from issuing plastic bags. Click Here to help out by signing their petition.

I smell collectible reusable bags! I doubt that they will be as stylish as this retro bag from the 1960's but hopefully it happens and they make the most of this opportunity. Up next: getting all athletes to utilize reusable water bottles and finding alternatives to the single-use gooey gel packs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jackson Browne on TEDx

We've reported about TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch presentations on this blog before, but this one may surprise you - Jackson Browne performing a new song about plastics in the ocean. It's certainly not the stuff he used to sing about in the old days...before we found ourselves awash in single-use plastics.

You may be wondering what Jackson has been doing since the peak of his pop music popularity in the 1970s - he is still touring and performing AND over the last couple of years, has been bit by the news about what plastics are doing to our environment and now has a new song, in his own signature style (same hair too!), describing how he feels about it. Check it out, I think you'll be sUrPrIsEd!!

NICE!! I love that line, "Trying to see the world through the junk we produce everyday." - well put JB! "If I could be anywhere in time and change the outcome, it would have to be now.", indeed! You can read more about how the song came about here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gordon's Pick

I had the pleasure of finally meeting Dr. Gordon Labedz a couple of weeks ago at the Surfrider Hawaii Chapter Conference. The man is a legend in my eyes as he helped shape Surfrider early on in Long Beach as the idea of chapters was developed and is now one of the top activists for the Kauai Chapter. Here's a fun Friday video he recently shared on facebook that I thought was worthy of sharing here...

(Does it really take that long for someone to pick up a bottle near a recycle bin?)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Middle School Students Say 'No More Styrofoam!'

Kids can seem to cut right through the point with clear thoughts and emotional appeal. Students from Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Angeles prove that with their passion against plastic, in this case polystyrene, aka styrofoam.

The good folks at recently featured their story of disposable lunch trays that are used at alarming rates. Large school districts can go through millions of them in one school year. Small steps can lead to big change. Check out the full story for their school project to raise awareness.

Friday, April 1, 2011

More Jack Johnson Action!

Honolulu hosted the NOAA Marine Debris Conference last week and you can imagine the interactions going on there between the anti-single-use plastics activists (us!) and the single-goal (money, Money and more MONEY!) plastics producers (the ACC!) - well, I have a couple of nice zingers on that front: one from the conference closing ceremony ("Exhibit A") and one that was coughed up ("Exhibit B") in response to Exhibit A after the conference.

Exhibit A: Oahu local Jack Johnson, long supporter of cleaner oceans, and BIG advocate of rethink, reduce, reuse, and well, stapling things, got the coveted closing minutes of the conference to sing a new song about aliens, pyramids and plastics (sorry about the FB link...shot by Wayne Sentman, this one is not yet available for embedding):

Facebook link to Jack Johnson's NOAA conference-closing tune (:41).

Exhibit B: Also, seizing on the super-mod, hip & trendy Twitter application, the super-mod, hip & trendy American Chemistry Council, which had a strong presence at the NOAA conference (and whom apparently now own computers...?), up-chucked this gem of a tweet (as reported by RAP superstar Nicole Parisi-Smith):

Jack Johnson must not have a dog. Lol. 90% of people reuse their plastic bags. They're not "bad" just recycle what you don't use. #5IMDC (link)

Oh gawd, whatevahhhz...Still not gettin' it, ACC - but for future reference, guys, you may not get that Mid-East-revolution style surge from Twitter that you may be expecting if the best you can do is bad-mouth one of the most popular global performing stars of the last ~10 years..."lol" (do people still use that?) indeed!

It's pau hana, so a hui hou malama pono everybody!!!

PS - below is a different vid of Jack from the same ceremony - just missing the part where the Kokua kids shout, "BE FANTASTIC, DON'T USE PLASTIC!", ahem, lol.