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Jennifer Schwab Headshot

Time to Bag the Bags

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We've all seen images of birds and fish, with plastic grocery bags in mouth. Disturbing indeed, and don't think this is propaganda from PETA. Plastic bags are entering our food chain through oceans, rivers and the stomachs of wildlife. The toxins they carry are nearly impossible to eliminate as we don't really know how if ever they break down naturally.

You might ask well how do all these bags get into our water supply, most people throw them away when they unpack their groceries, right? You'd be amazed how these little wonders of mass production have nine lives, so to speak. They go to landfills, where they blow away due to their zero weight, almost like kites on a gentle breeze. Gulls and pigeons carry them for the food scraps inside. You get the idea. For a compelling visual of how this works, view the video "The Plastic Bag" (trust me it's a lot more entertaining than it sounds, very well done).

There IS one way to stop this madness, and it's called California Assembly Bill 1998. Finally, government is taking action to eliminate this blight on the environment. Governor Schwarzenegger has already pledged to sign this piece of legislation, it needs now to get through the state Senate. Please express your support for this measure, write your representatives. The city of San Francisco passed the nation's first ban on plastic bag in 2007 and today, having saved over five million bags per month, you can see the difference as you walk the streets. Bill 1998 would take effect in 2012. Consumers would have to pay for paper bags if they don't remember to bring their own reusables.

This is not only for the progressive environmental legislation in California. Other states need to follow the Golden State's lead and take action against this costly problem: the Plastic Pollution Coalition.org, a group dedicated to stop plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, the environment and wildlife, says the cleanup costs to pick up and dispose of littered bags is in the billions of dollars.

Buried in Plastic PSA Plastic Pollution Coalition from Dianna Cohen on Vimeo.

If you are among the lucky few who do recycle their plastic bags, or even better yet, bringing your own bags to the grocery store, then thank you! I have stocked each of our cars with a trunk full of re-useable fabric shopping bags, and it is really a no-brainer to get into this habit. Plus, these fabric bags are much stronger and larger than the plastics, they can hold a full load of canned goods, gallons of milk, anything large and heavy, with virtually no danger of breakage. No more driveway full of yogurt while the profanities fly. You can't argue with that.

This kind of reminds me of the stop smoking ban. When it first was passed, it seemed reactionary and maybe even an invasion on our freedoms. Now, most public places in American are smoke-free and for the most part, everybody loves it. As does our indoor air quality.

Let's hear your thoughts on AB 1998. If you are from California, call your state Senator. Everywhere else, be a leader in your community and get the conversation going with your legislators. Your waterways, streets, and landfills will thank you! We appreciate your support.

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