Commentary: War on Plastic Bags Needs to Be Won on the Ground

plastic-bagThose who are pushing for the city to adopt a plastic bag ban – a proposal apparently that was so appalling and radical that the State Legislature took it up last year and had it narrowly fail – need to recognize that they have a very tough battle ahead as Bob Dunning has made this one of his campaigns, much as he did with Zipcar and wood burning.

Mr. Dunning was at least partially right on the Zipcar fiasco – it was a fiasco and city staff was dishonest about what was in the contract.

Wood burning is an issue that every city in California has had to address.  Part of that is mandated by state and federal air quality standards.  It is a difficult campaign, however, because most people do not feel the impact of wood burning, and those who favor wood burning have much stronger feelings than those who oppose it.

Plastic bags, however, is a different issue entirely.  First of all, wood burning has a very localized effect.  Plastic bags have several impacts that probably make it more conducive to a state issue than a local issue.  There is the amount of oil used to produce the bags.  Go fill up your car later today and check on those gas prices for me.

Second, there is the issue of waste and landfill.  Are our landfills choked with plastic bags?  No.  But they are a sizable percentage of the non-biodegradable waste.  The fact that they are as small a percentage of the total landfill as they are shows us two things, first how full of garbage we are and second how small bags are in relation to other things.

Fact is, plastic bags are used probably twice, the first time to carry out your groceries and the second time to carry your garbage to the garbage can.

Third, they are a threat to wildlife.

Mr. Dunning goes into a prolonged monologue on how long the ordinance is, and that is a sign that he is not really sure about how to attack this issue.  You get into semantics when you cannot win the argument on the merits.

This is actually an issue that will be won, as consumers vote, with their feet.  Ten years ago, my parents stopped using disposable grocery bags and began to use re-usable bags.  If they can do it, everyone can.  There is no reason not to.  Not one.  The cost of bags for low income people is a red herring and a canard.  It costs more for stores to issue plastic bags.  We can subsidize it.  We can find sponsors for it.  If that is your only reason for opposing a ban, then you are already on board.

There are actually a lot of advantages to using the reusable bags.  They are bigger and stronger, so they can hold more groceries.  I might need ten plastic bags to carry out my groceries but only two reusable bags.  They load the groceries more neatly.

The biggest disadvantage is one must remember to first put them into your car or bring them on your bike (this is Davis after all).  And second, to bring them from the car into the store.  That is apparently where I get bogged down.

Bottom line, I think organizers should consider a ground war on this, rather than an air war.  Get some environmental organization to donate a ton of reusable bags, and hand them out at Farmer’s Market and in front of Grocery stores.

Perhaps corporate sponsorship might be a way to go here, have a company produce bags with their corporate logos on them, and distribute these bags.

In a community like Davis, you can win this war on the ground.  You do not have to rely on air support.

My other advice to supporters of the plastic bag ban, is do not concede the fight.  The thing that is most remarkable about the Bob Dunning columns is that he can have a new column on the same topic day after day after day.  He writes five columns a week.  Sometimes I have seen four of them on the same subject, maybe even five.

I write somewhere between 14 and 21 columns and articles a week, and usually if three out of 21 of them are on the same subject, people are complaining, enough, overkill. 

But the key is people have to keep writing about the topic and not concede it to Bob Dunning or his supporters.  Send in columns, letters to the editor, comments on this site.

Finally, fight the war on your own terms.  Do not engage in a semantics battle.  Do not worry about refuting every single claim.  Figure out which claims are cogent, attack those, but remember your assets in this community: everyone fancies themselves an environmentalist and plastic bag bans are nothing new in the environmental community.

For those of you who argue that this is not an essential issue, I disagree.  I am very committed to pushing Davis towards fiscal stability.  But if we do not save our planet, it will matter little if Davis has avoided bankruptcy.

No, banning plastic bags in Davis will not save our planet.  But the mantra for environmentalists is to think globally and act locally.  It is local communities like Davis that must lead to way toward a more sustainable future, and frankly I cannot think of a more important issue than that. 

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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77 Comments

  1. rusty49

    “Fact is, plastic bags are used probably twice, the first time to carry out your groceries and the second time to carry your garbage to the garbage can.”

    I use mine twice, so if the plastic grocery bags are banned everyone will then have to buy the thicker heavier ones to line their under the sink trash cans. Where’s the good in this?

  2. David M. Greenwald

    “Where’s the good in this? “

    I suspect it’s not a one-to-one ratio of bags to one-time reuse.

    But obviously we will need to find a way to deal with trash without plastic bags at some point as well.

  3. medwoman

    One way to need less bags to carry out our trash, would be to create less trash. Avoiding needless packaging such as the ” banana in a bag”
    Would be acstart.

  4. Dr. Wu

    [quote]There is the amount of oil used to produce the bags.

    Second, there is the issue of waste and landfill[/quote]

    David:

    I support limiting bags but only due to your third reason. The first two are trivial in my opinion. I am sure someone can come up with a huge number for the amount of fossil fuel bags use but the fact is the word uses something like 85 million barrels a day of petroleum and the amount of that that goes into plastic bags is small.

    Second, while landfill is unsightly it is not a huge environmental issue unless toxins are involved.

    On the other hand the threat to marine life is more serious than most people realize. And I should probably send Mr. Rifkin some photos I took of the garbage coming out of the mouth of the LA rives (at Long Beach)–much of this comes from inland.

    It is true that Davis alone banning plastic bags will make little difference butwe could actually be a leader on this issue. Personally I would favor some sort of use change on bags with the money goin to marine protected areas in the State. But banning plastic bags also works for me.

  5. hpierce

    [quote]Bottom line, I think organizers should consider a ground war on this, rather than an air war. Get some environmental organization to donate a ton of reusable bags, and hand them out at Farmer’s Market and in front of Grocery stores.

    Perhaps corporate sponsorship might be a way to go here, have a company produce bags with their corporate logos on them, and distribute these bags.

    In a community like Davis, you can win this war on the ground. You do not have to rely on air support.[/quote]Agreed.
    [quote]You get into semantics when you cannot win the argument on the merits.[/quote]And, if you cannot convince your neighbors that going “bagless” is the right thing to do, you go to five citizens on a Tuesday night to force everyone to act as you believe.
    Some of those promoting the “ban” have indicated that paper bags are similarly evil, and some keep using the word “cloth” which may signal an eventual intention to ban plastic, paper, recycled plastic and nylon bags.
    I typically use the latter three, mostly the bags manufacture from recycled plastics, and nylon. I just don’t like to be told that I HAVE TO do what I already do, and I believe that some people who would otherwise be open to changing their behaviors will also resent the “bossy-butt” approach.

  6. rusty49

    “But obviously we will need to find a way to deal with trash without plastic bags at some point as well.”

    What, are the greenies going to send storm troopers down residential streets looking in trash cans? Are garbage men going to have to actually get out of their trucks and inspect the contents of the cans before they dump them? Like many have been saying on here, plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg.

  7. Musser

    Yes, lets not talk semantics, lets talk facts:

    1. do you know how many plastic bags from Davis actually end up in the Pacific Ocean? Do you? Because if you do not, then you really don’t know if plastic bags in Davis actually cause harm to the environment.

    2. interestingly enough, I thought Janet Krovoza’s editorial in the enterprise actually helped the anti-plastic bag ban forces. She says the following: “Actually, we are closer than you think when you consider that our gutters empty into Willow slough and then our water (and any trash carried in it) travels through the city of Davis wetlands, the toe drain, the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean”

    In other words, there are multiple degrees of separation here, the likelihood that a plastic bag will end up in the Pacific ocean decreases in each link in the chain, making it substantially less likely it ultimately will end up there. Thus I thought she hurt, rather than helped her cause.

    “Bottom line, I think organizers should consider a ground war on this, rather than an air war.”

    *side point
    You know, I’m sorry I have to bring a tangent in on this discussion, but I think it is worth mentioning. You gave sara palin hell for using weapons and war for political theater – telling her to “tone down the rhetoric” or arizona type shootings will occur. Well here you are, using war type rhetoric to make your political point – while you told others to “tone it down” you ratchet it up. just a side point.

    But if you want a war, you will get one. Because I don’t think that you can just annoint yourselves the Plastic police just because you say so and tell everyone else what to do. Your rhetoric strikes me as very SELF IMPORTANT – my cause is important and I know what is best for everyone else and nobody elected you. And I find it apalling the general public hasn’t been brought in on this issue before the council is being pressed to go along with this ban by a relative few.

  8. hpierce

    Actually, Elaine, at the risk of playing semantics, NO Davis gutters discharge to Willow Slough. Most of the Davis drainage that even gets to the Willow Slough [b]Bypass[/b], goes to ponds, trash racks, and pumps before discharge. Mace Ranch, Old East, and South Davis never goes into Willow Slough NOR the Willow Slough Bypass.

  9. Musser

    what is going to come next? what brands of cereal I buy? toothpaste? whether I buy the bagged spinach as opposed to the unbagged? styrofoam cups? (yes, I still buy those) buying physical gift cards as opposed to doing the transaction online and saving plastic there? the brand of deodorant? the amount of toilet paper I use? If we agree to this ban, that is like turning over the keys to your entire life over to the state. excuse me, but this is neither Cuba, nor the USSR

  10. rusty49

    “do you know how many plastic bags from Davis actually end up in the Pacific Ocean? Do you? Because if you do not, then you really don’t know if plastic bags in Davis actually cause harm to the environment.”

    They have to make up supposed facts to make the problem much worse than it actually is in order to back their position so they can cram their agenda down the public’s throat.

  11. GreenandGolden

    This is just like when they made us start wearing seat belts. I have never had a car crash, and don’t need to be forced to wear a seat belt! I would ride a motorcycle, but I’m not going to let them force me to wear a helmet. This over regulation contributed to the demise of the US auto industry, and the plastic bag ban will kill jobs and contribute to the demise of the…plastic bag industry.

  12. Observer

    One good thing about getting old is remembering how the world was. I predate plastic bags. Milk came in bottles. People wrapped sandwiches in waxed paper. You carried your groceries home in a paper bag. We drank water out of the faucet, or if you were in the yard, the hose. We survived. The world will be just fine without plastic. Believe me; I was there.

  13. alanpryor

    “If we agree to this ban, that is like turning over the keys to your entire life over to the state. excuse me, but this is neither Cuba, nor the USSR “

    Uh…don’t you mean, “this is neither San Jose or LA county” or how about “this is neither Ireland or Italy” because those are just a few of hundreds of places that than ban plastic bags. So far Russia and Cuba aren’t on the list.

    You anti-banner, “pry my plastic bags from my cold dead fingers” types are funny, though, because this isn’t exactly a 2nd amendment right we are talking about here.

    We have lots of types of activities or products that are prohibited for the public good. Just because you choose to practice those activities or use those products doesn’t mean they are a god-given right.

    Seems to me that one person in this thread, in particular, is a staunch anti-drug use advocate. Consistency would seem to indicate you should be fervently in opposition to any personal drug use laws also. And I can’t believe you anti-banner folks are not all up in arms against all the smoking in public places ordinances…C’mon folks, get a self-righteous backbone here…rise up to defend ALL of our liberties and crush the oppressive Council regime! If they can overthrow the tyrants in Egypt, we can overthrow the dictators in city hall!

    Like I said, you guys are funny.

  14. E Roberts Musser

    hpierce: “Actually, Elaine, at the risk of playing semantics, NO Davis gutters discharge to Willow Slough. Most of the Davis drainage that even gets to the Willow Slough Bypass, goes to ponds, trash racks, and pumps before discharge. Mace Ranch, Old East, and South Davis never goes into Willow Slough NOR the Willow Slough Bypass.”

    I did not write the comment – it is another Musser! I always sign my comments w E Roberts Musser… Elaine Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Bottom line, I think organizers should consider a ground war on this, rather than an air war. Get some environmental organization to donate a ton of reusable bags, and hand them out at Farmer’s Market and in front of Grocery stores. Perhaps corporate sponsorship might be a way to go here, have a company produce bags with their corporate logos on them, and distribute these bags.”

    I have no problem w environmentalists “encouraging” certain behaviors to counteract what they view as detrimental behavior towards the environment. However, to set themselves up as the “plastic police” is outrageous. Who died and made them the arbitor of all things right and relevant? Once a group starts down that road of deciding for the rest of us how to behave, what behavior is next that this group will want to control? These are the same people that decry the loss of their freedoms bc of other gov’t intrusions, yet they have no problem w the gov’t intruding if the intrusion happens to align w their beliefs. They cannot have it both ways.

    dmg: “Do not worry about refuting every single claim. Figure out which claims are cogent, attack those, but remember your assets in this community: everyone fancies themselves an environmentalist and plastic bag bans are nothing new in the environmental community.”

    In other words, you do not have good arguments for many of the criticisms of a plastic bag ban:
    1) What do we line our garbage cans w?
    2) What do we clean up dog poop w?
    3) Shall we ban all plastic?
    4) Plastic bag pollution represents a miniscule amount of the “plastic pollution”. Have you seen how many condoms are at the sewer plant. Shall we ban condoms bc they clog up our sewer system?
    5) Illegal merchant ship dumping probably represent 1/3 of all the garbage pollution in the ocean.
    6) Why not incentives rather than an outright ban?
    7) Why not push for biodegradable plastic bags?
    8) Why not recycle at destination – the landfill?
    9) Plastic bags were substituted bc paper bags were seen as “evil”. Now the same proponents of plastic bags are now saying plastic bags are “evil” and we need to go back to paper bags.
    10) The dye in many cloth bags has been found to have lead in them, which is unsafe for children to use, and not healthy for adults either.
    11) The majority of citizens have had the option of using cloth bags but have not chosen to do so, finding plastic bags more convenient and of use for other things at home. Why should the tyranny of the minority in wanting a plastic bag ban reign supreme?
    12) I’ll stop there, but I’m sure I can think of more…

  15. byoungs1

    I use BioBags for my trash and pet needs, purchased at the Co-Op. 100% compostable and 0% petroleum is used. Also, I have been using canvas bags for nearly 15 years for all store purchases. This was a very simple lifestyle change.

  16. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “I suspect it’s not a one-to-one ratio of bags to one-time reuse.
    But obviously we will need to find a way to deal with trash without plastic bags at some point as well.”

    This statement is very, very telling. A plastic bag ban at grocery stores is the first step in the real goal of banning all plastic bags of any kind… and then ban all plastic… and then ban whatever the arbiters of all things right and relevant decide needs to go next…

    Much like medical marijuana usage being used as the toehold in the legalization of drugs…

    Slippery slopes and downright undemocratic…

  17. byoungs1

    Biodegradable plastic bags are a fallacy. They just break down into millions of much smaller pieces of plastic which is even worse for the environment.

  18. Rifkin

    [i]”Plastic bags have several impacts that probably make it more conducive to a state issue than a local issue.”[/i]

    If it is an issue at all, it is a coastal issue. The reason the ban argument in Davis is so weak is because it is all built on emotion and not reason.

    [i]”Second, there is the issue of waste and landfill. Are our landfills choked with plastic bags? No. But they are a sizable percentage of the non-biodegradable waste.”[/i]

    Totally false. Plastic grocery bags make up 0.4% of the landfill waste. EVERYTHING which is buried in a landfill and has no source of light or oxygen is ‘non-biodegradable waste.’ It’s just shocking how anti-science this bag ban argument has become.

    [i]”Third, they are a threat to wildlife.”[/i]

    This is yet one more falsehood in the argument to ban bags [b]in Davis.[/b] It’s entirely possible that in San Francisco or Santa Monica, plastic bags could pose some small danger to some creatures. But here in Davis it is just a part of the bigger lie that the banners have invented to ban bags [b]in Davis.[/b] They have not one whit of proof for this wildlife claim [b]in Davis.[/b]

    Moreover, the actual science on this topic is that plastic grocery bags are less harmful to the environment in the big picture than paper bags are. So that raises the question: why are the banners not first going after paper bags? Answer: because their argument is all based on made up sh*#.

    [i]”There are actually a lot of advantages to using the reusable bags. They are bigger and stronger, so they can hold more groceries. I might need ten plastic bags to carry out my groceries but only two reusable bags. They load the groceries more neatly.”[/i]

    No one is stopping you from making that choice. And if you think others ought to choose your option, then explain that to them. But stop making up b.s. about plastic grocery bags and why they must be banned. All of your arguments are bogus for banning bags in Davis.

    [i]”Bottom line, I think organizers should consider a ground war on this, rather than an air war.”[/i]

    Hypocritical war analogies? No good for that idiot former governor of Alaska but good for you?

  19. medwoman

    EMR

    I agree with you about providing incentives instead of having the government intrude on personal behavior.
    It’s just that I think this principle should be applied equally regardless of what issue is being discussed. To be consistent one would need to legalize the use of drugs as long as used in the privacy of one”s home or other private venue much as alcohol is legal now.
    I see saebelt and motorcycle helmet laws being decried by GreenandGolden, but no objection to outlawing drugs which are not in favor with certain groups, vs those that are, namely alcohol and cigarettes both of which are equally at least as medically dangerous as marijuana.
    It seems that neither side has a monopoly on lack of consistency.

  20. Don Shor

    [i]“this is neither Ireland or Italy” because those are just a few of hundreds of places that than ban plastic bags”
    [/i]
    Ireland instituted a tax on plastic bags, not a ban. I think it worked.
    [url]http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/world/europe/02bags.html[/url]

    Since this is an entirely symbolic proposal, with virtually no environmental consequences, it seems that incentives would be a better way to go. I also think the city council has more pressing issues. Local groups could raise funds by selling cloth bags in front of grocery stores.

  21. rusty49

    Exactly Mr. Shor,

    If one chooses to go the cloth bag route then more power to them. If one can talk another into using cloth then great, but don’t force your views on another when as you say the environmental consequences are virtually zero. Here’s an idea:

    Supermarkets often offer to collect the plastic bags — you may have seen the bins in front of stores. “In 2003 Safeway collected 7,000 tons of plastic grocery bags, pallet-wrap plastic, and dry cleaners’ bags. The plastic is sold to a company that makes…lumber-like boards.”

  22. Allycat

    Some people here seem to think they have a right to use plastic bags and the American Chemistry Council members have the right to make and sell these toxic and dangerous products, even though they take no responsiblity for their impact after the point of sale. The ACC also has the right to give our “representatives” gobs of money to oppose these grass roots efforts to protect the health of our communities and the planet.

    Who gave us the right to pollute? The right to waste? The right to make products that are toxic, harm wildlife and pose an expensive problem to municipalities, landfillers, recyclers, composters and the environment at large while selling these things so cheaply that they are practically free.

    I think we should have more freedom from pollution rather than freedom to pollute. My health and happiness are impacted from dying oceans and a diseased environment and populous. Personally, I think the Albatros and the other 266+ species directly affected by these products should have the right to be free from such pollution as well, even if it comes at the expense of someone’s “freedom” to enjoy a free, convenient, flimsy, “disposable” (read polluting) bag when they could certainly carry their own.

    Yes, thanks to the surge of communities banning single use plastic bags in CA (nine have done so already including SF, LA, Oakland, Santa Monica, Fairfax…) a state ban was proposed and passed the Assembly (AB 1998) in 2010. However, in the Senate, our own representative, Lois Wolk, cowed to the chemical companies and took money to kill the bill and protect their dirty profits.

    Organizers of this decidedly organic, grass roots movement that has formed to take action against the plastic pollution take issue with the impacts of plastic waste, especially film plastic, most notably bags. We are doing it to promote REUSE and personal responsibility. Working with incentives would be preferable, but the ACC circumvented this in state law, preventing communities from putting a fee on plastic bags if there is a “recycling” bin for them provided (any markets for film plastic are weak and overseas, less than 5% of bags make it to these markets – the one domestic buyer, TREX has more than they can handle).

    Davis has banned cigarette smoking in public places and that may have significantly reduced water pollution as cigarette butts are the #1 source of water pollution in CA and the top item found floating in the ocean as marine debris. The second largest constituent of marine debris? Plastic Bags. For more info about ocean pollution check out: http://www.environmentcalifornia.org/oceans/great-pacific-cleanup

    We all live downstream, so getting toxic materials out of common use will help protect human health for years to come.

    Still more info and resources on Bag Bans: http://zerowaste.wikispot.org/Bag_Bans

  23. E Roberts Musser

    ap: “You anti-banner, “pry my plastic bags from my cold dead fingers” types are funny, though, because this isn’t exactly a 2nd amendment right we are talking about here.”

    To be consistent on this issue, it means one is for a ban in using all plastics bc plastic is polluting our world and harming animals? Correct? Then what to we put dog poop in? Household garbage? Water, fruit juice and soda pop? Meat? And why are incentives as opposed to an outright ban so antithetical to plastic bag banners? Let’s put this one to a vote of the people of Davis – oh, but wait. We have done that. Disposable cloth bags are available, yet most people are still using plastic bags. Could it be bc they recycle them for use as dog poop disposers, garbage can liners, etc.?

  24. rusty49

    “Who gave us the right to pollute? The right to waste? The right to make products that are toxic”

    So Alleycat, you have no plastic in your house, you don’t buy anything wrapped in plastic, you don’t drive a car, your dwelling was made of all environmental friendly materials, you don’t draw any power from your local utility, nothing you use in your life ends up as waste or is toxic?

    Please, spare me the lecture.

  25. E Roberts Musser

    In reference to my last comment, I suspect that is bc citizens were forced to go out and purchase plastic bags for lining garbage cans, for dog poop disposal and the like.

  26. Don Shor

    Elaine: from the article
    “In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

    Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.”

    I previously posted a link showing that sales of plastic bags (i.e., trash can liners) increased. Overall, though, I think the tax reduced the consumption of plastic bags.

  27. Rifkin

    ALLEY: [i]”Some people here seem to think they have a right to use plastic bags and the American Chemistry Council members have the right to make and sell these toxic and dangerous products …”[/i]

    When you live in a free society, you should not have the right to choose whatever products you want to use or consume, as long as your doing so does not impose a cost on others or the common good.

    The problem with the arguments against plastic bags is that the proponents have failed at every point to make a reasonable or scientific argument that banning plastic bags in Davis will do any good or that using plastic grocery bags in Davis is causing any harm or cost on others or the environment.

    All of the arguments in Davis are either false or irrational appeals which are not scientifically supported.

    [i]”… even though they take no responsiblity for their impact after the point of sale.”[/i]

    This is false in every respect. I cause no harm whatsover to anyone else in Davis by choosing to use plastic grocery bags. It is not the case that our city is awash in strewn plastic grocery bags. Insofar as we have a problem with strewn garbage, it is (based on everywhere I go in Davis) much more of a problem with paper products, not plastic grocery bags.

    [i]”The ACC also has the right to give our ‘representatives’ gobs of money to oppose these grass roots efforts to protect the health of our communities and the planet.”[/i]

    That is yet another appeal to prejudice and not reason. It says, ‘those who agree with Alleycat are pure and are grass rooty, while those who are waiting for a logical argument are corrupt. I grant that financial contributions to politicians do corrupt them, and perhaps that corruption has affected some votes on this issue. Yet why are you decrying that piddly amount of corrution and not the serious corrupting gobs of money the PEUs have poured into campaigns.

    Consider this: In the 2009-10 election cycle, the grand sum contributed to all candidates for elective office in California by the American Chemistry Council was $45,500. (Source ([url]http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1011918&view=contributions&session=2009[/url]).)

    By contrast, this is how much the Calif. Teachers Assoc. Issues PAC ([url]http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1045740&session=2009&view=contributions[/url]) gave to various candidates for state elective office: $24,044,069.70.

    But that is not all. The CTA’s independent expenditure committee ([url]http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1312654&session=2009&view=contributions[/url]) spent $1,584,649.64 on state races.

    But that is not all. The CTA’s IEC for 2010 ([url]http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1328666&view=contributions&session=2009[/url]) spent another $5,365,866.72 on state races.

    But that is not all. The CTA’s Association for Better Citizenship ([url]http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1018473&session=2009&view=contributions[/url]) spent another $9,443,891.00 on state races.

    So if your interest is in exposing who is bought and paid for by whom, it is surprising that you would direct your wrath at one group which spent $45,500 and ignore the corrupting influences of a group which spent in the same 2-year time frame 879 times as much (or $40 million).

    Moreover, if you would go through the data on all PEUs, you would find the multiple is probably in the range of 15,000 to 1 for money spent to corrupt pols in comparison with the ACC.

  28. Rifkin

    [i]”Who gave us the right to pollute?”[/i]

    Who gave you the right to declare without evidence that shoppers in Davis who use plastic grocery bags are some significant source of pollution in Davis?

    [i]”The right to waste?”[/i]

    Who gave you the right to arrogate as to what is waste and what is value to another human being? You come down on this issue like you have just left the burning bush on Mt. Sinai.

    [i]”The right to make products that are toxic, harm wildlife and pose an expensive problem to municipalities, landfillers, recyclers, composters and the environment at large while selling these things so cheaply that they are practically free?[/i]

    For the most part, your charges are not supported by any critically evaluated scientific data. But I would add what I said above: plastic grocery bags are less harmful to the environment than paper bags, and that has been proven by a scientific study ([url]http://www.asd.polyu.edu.hk/lab/upload/Journal_Papers/2009_An Exploratory Comparative Study on Eco-Impact of Paper and Plastic Bags.pdf[/url]).

  29. David Suder

    Don Shor: [quote]Since this is an entirely symbolic proposal, with virtually no environmental consequences, it seems that incentives would be a better way to go. I also think the city council has more pressing issues. Local groups could raise funds by selling cloth bags in front of grocery stores.[/quote]
    Right – Encourage. Educate. Promote alternatives.

    I personally detest plastic carryout bags (as well the ubiquitous plastic overpackaging of many products). We don’t use them in our household, and don’t find that to be a burden. Some of the offers of plastic carryout bags that we encounter border on the surreal. (How often have you been offered a plastic bag to carry out a single item that will fit in your pocket?) Linda Book’s recent editorial in the Enterprise discussed the realities of converting to cloth bags, and provided good advice about converting. I would much rather see people switch to cloth bags because they realize the merit in doing so than pass yet another city ordinance on a subject like this.

    There are plenty of good reasons for individuals to minimize the use of unneccessary plastic in all forms – but that doesn’t mean that our City Council or City staff should spend their time on this at this point. Don Shor is right: the City Council and City staff have more important issues to work on right now. Debating the merits and logistics of banning plastic bags is a distraction from the huge, crushing financial problems that the City faces.

    Let’s encourage the City Council and the City staff to work on nothing other than solving the budget mess until they get it figured out. It won’t be as fun or as sexy as plastic bags or Zipcars, but it is the 800-pound gorilla that must be dealt with first. Once that is accomplished, then they can get back to debating stuff like this.

    In the meantime, let’s rely on truthful education and helpful advice to promote alternatives to excessive plastic of all sorts.

  30. civil discourse

    Rifkin:

    I have yet to see any of your arguments regarding using demand as a way to control the manufacturing of plastic bags.

    You seem to be saying “because we are don’t litter, there is no problem” mostly over and over again. Which only addresses the pollution argument.

    Yet many of the pro-bag ban people are saying trending towards less manufacturing of petroleum products is a necessary thing, to which I haven’t seen your response.

    The pro-ban arguments I’ve read and agreed with state the sheer amount of plastic bags being manufactured is simply too much and only increasing. My experience shows that supply far exceed demand in this case, and the ratio has only increased over the years. No matter how many plastic bags I try to use at target or CVS they never seem to run out. When they used to use one bag, they now wrap individual items in bags that they go in other bags, that then go again in bigger bags.

    Expecting to reach balance on this issue by normal market controls seems overly optimistic. When the marketplace fails, our representative government can provide balance, especially on lifestyle issues such as this, right?

    Rifkin, are you for government taking a role in this issue, either with incentives or with outright bans or taxes?

  31. Allycat

    The issue here is promoting the use of reusable bags, the best option to reduce the huge cumulative impacts of DISPOSABLE bag use. Doing this through incentives is an effective strategy and is being implemented around the world. Outright bans on Plastic Bags are also effective and becoming more common, recently Australia and Italy banned plastic bags country wide.

    In CA the ACC has lobbied to make it illegal for communities to put a fee on plastic bags to reduce their use.

    The proposed ordinance leaves an alternative for those who forget, are too lazy, irresponsible or who simply refuse to bring their own bag. You just have to pay the $.25 for it at check out (instead of its cost being absorbed into higher grocery prices).

    Plastic bags have high litter and marine impacts and no real recycling market. Is this a big problem in Davis? Do our bags escape into the environment? The ones that make it to the landfill often escape! Staff there build trash fences and chase bags incessantly as they blow away in the wind. See the photos here: [url]http://daviswiki.org/Yolo_County_Central_Landfill[/url]

    Even if they are a small portion by weight of what we landfill, most of what goes to landfill already has viable recycling markets, just look at any local or state Waste Characterization Study. If we diverted and recycled organics, metals, construction waste, fibers, soils, aggregates, reusable items, and other recyclables we would have 10% of the waste we landfill today. We would still have these pesky Plastic Bags that have no useful endlife. They should be removed from production to be replaced with a reusable alternative or a truely recyclable, compostable, marine degradable alternative (that would surely still have more production and distribution impacts than a reusable cloth bag, per use). Plastic film recycling as it is today is a joke, as less than 5% is recovered and most is exported.

    The bag makers also pay nothing to help deal with the pollution they generate. They rely on citizens and communities/municipalities to pick up litter and pay for dealing with it, including hauling and landfilling. Why are we subsidizing these bags with our tax dollars? Why do we pay for litter clean up and not the producer of the litter (who conveniently supports “consumer responsibility” for their products). The City already supports the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility for some waste types ([url]http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/councilpackets/20100706/03A Extended Producer Responsibility Program.pdf[/url]) so why should we take on the burden of dealing with plastic trash? Effectively subsidizing the oil industry and taking on the burden of their externalized costs (and pollution).

    Plastic Bags and Styrofoam are considered “white pollution” in many parts of the world because it is really in everyone’s face. Here we pay to hide it in a hole, below the water table, in a landfill. The EPA acknowledges that some day every landfill will leak. Will the bags in the landfill be pollution when they are swimming in our aquifer? Do they have to make it to the ocean to be considered harmful?

  32. rusty49

    “The issue here is promoting the use of reusable bags”

    “Who gave us the right to pollute? The right to waste? The right to make products that are toxic”

    Why, because you can’t address this issue?

    So Alleycat, you have no plastic in your house, you don’t buy anything wrapped in plastic, you don’t drive a car, your dwelling was made of all environmental friendly materials, you don’t draw any power from your local utility, nothing you use in your life ends up as waste or is toxic?

  33. rusty49

    “In CA the ACC has lobbied to make it illegal for communities to put a fee on plastic bags to reduce their use.

    The proposed ordinance leaves an alternative for those who forget, are too lazy, irresponsible or who simply refuse to bring their own bag. You just have to pay the $.25 for it at check out (instead of its cost being absorbed into higher grocery prices).”

    HUH???? What am I missing here, it’s illegal to charge a fee but there is a fee? Yeah and I’m sure our grocery prices will go down if we start paying for plastic bags.

  34. GreenandGolden

    The road to ruin, that’s all it is! Next, they will make it illegal not to pick up after our dogs, but we won’t have plastic bags in which to carry the poop around in (self righteously). We are past the precipice on the slippery slope. Thank heaven that Bob Dunning is coming to the rescue.

  35. Rifkin

    Correction: “When you live in a free society, you should [s]not[/s] have the right to choose whatever products you want to use or consume, as long as your doing so does not impose a cost on others or the common good.”

  36. J.R.

    Dunning is right to make fun of this issue.

    It says much of the people who feel this is so important that they are ready to restrict our freedom of choice rights for this petty cause.

  37. Rifkin

    CIVIL: [i]”Yet many of the pro-bag ban people are saying trending towards less manufacturing of petroleum products is a [b]necessary[/b] thing, to which I haven’t seen your response.”[/i]

    I have not heard a cogent argument of any sort why we should do this in Davis. It may do some good somewhere. So show me the science of how doing this would have any impact at all.

    Even if we presume for argument sake that “the manufacture of petroleum products” needs to be banned, why would you start with plastic grocery bags, which (I would guess) eat up far less that 0.01% of the petroleum we consume? Why would you not start with the obvious–banning gasoline or petrol-diesel fuel? Or if those bans are too ambitious, why don’t you suggest banning the manufacture of tires made from synthetic petroleum-based rubber? If your contention that doing these things is [b]necessary,[/b] then why not suggest we need to go back to natural rubber for tires? Most cars prior to WW1 rode on real rubber.

    [i]”The pro-ban arguments I’ve read and agreed with state the sheer amount of plastic bags being manufactured is simply too much and only increasing.”[/i]

    These arguments are all based on emotion. Why don’t they produce some peer-reviewed science? They don’t even have good data on marine life being killed by plastic grocery bags. There has yet to be any scientific proof (AFAICT) that any plastics, let along bags, let alone bags from Davis, are killing marine life in any substantial quantities. If there are some quality studies of this issue, why don’t the banners ever quote them?

    [i]”No matter how many plastic bags I try to use at target or CVS they never seem to run out. When they used to use one bag, they now wrap individual items in bags that they go in other bags, that then go again in bigger bags.”[/i]

    You should just bring your own canvas bag if that bugs you. Or shop at stores whose bag philosophy is more in line with your own. You don’t need to force others with a ban to behave the way you think is best.

    [i]”Expecting to reach balance on this issue by normal market controls seems overly optimistic. When the marketplace fails, our representative government can provide balance, especially on lifestyle issues such as this, right?”[/i]

    The marketplace has not failed. If we really had a pollution problem in Davis with strewn grocery bags, then I would agree that we should add a 5 cent recycling tax on each bag. But it is apparent to me we don’t really have that problem.

    [i]”Rifkin, are you for government taking a role in this issue, either with incentives or with outright bans or taxes?”[/i]

    I am not. Again, any time there is an actual market failure, I am in favor of an externality tax. I am a strong believer in the CRV on bottles and cans, because it solves an actual problem.

    I keep an open mind to any science which proves that plastic bags are some great danger in and of themselves. But so far, there does not seem to be any science to back that up. They are not a landfill problem, a CO2 problem or any other problem that banning them in Davis would solve.

  38. Ryan Kelly

    I stopped off at the Davis Coop on the spur of the moment to pick up a few items (around 16 items). Standing in the check out line, I felt really guilty that I didn’t have a cloth bag to pack up all of the items to transport them home and I said as much out loud. I decided that I just wouldn’t use a bag. I rolled out to the car and just deposited the items in the back of the car. Driving home was interesting, trying to make turns without everything rolling from one side of the car to to other. It took 4 trips into the house from the car to carry everything in. The important thing was it was my choice to do this. It was a purposeful action on my part. I liked choosing.

  39. Allycat

    I try to keep it to a minimum, using reusable glass jars that I fill with bulk items. I bike and I do drive, but not having a car in this country is like being a second class citizen thanks to the lack of decent public transportation. I strive to do the right thing and reduce waste and toxicity in my personal life. I have a PV system, a composting toilet, greywater, keep a vegetarian diet and have recycled more than I have landfilled at this point. I can’t claim to be Zero Waste or to Do No Harm, but I do take the efforts seriously. I think the future health of the planet is worth it and I find it an enjoyable challenge.

  40. rusty49

    “I try to keep it to a minimum, using reusable glass jars that I fill with bulk items. I bike and I do drive, but not having a car in this country is like being a second class citizen thanks to the lack of decent public transportation. I strive to do the right thing and reduce waste and toxicity in my personal life. I have a PV system, a composting toilet, greywater, keep a vegetarian diet and have recycled more than I have landfilled at this point. I can’t claim to be Zero Waste or to Do No Harm, but I do take the efforts seriously. I think the future health of the planet is worth it and I find it an enjoyable challenge.”

    Well good for you and I don’t wish to put any limits on the lifestyle that you’ve chosen. How about you and your friends doing the same for the rest of us.

  41. Observer

    Interesting if somewhat hysterical conversation. I see an analogy with plastic and DDT. When DDT first came out, it was a godsend. Agricultural production went up, insect borne diseases reduced dramatically, etc. But over time, humanity realized that the cost of dead fish and birds wasn’t worth the benefit, and it was phased out. Have we not come to this point with plastic? The pollution of the oceans is not worth the convenience of the grocery bag or the styrofoam cup. But rather than a prohibition, I would support a tax based on the currently very popular bottle bill. Why not a twenty-five cent tax on every plastic container containing liquid, with a twenty-cent refund at the recycling center? The five cent profit could be used to support local government and schools. Same for the plastic grocery bag. This way, everyone wins; those who like plastic can keep using it, others can save money and the environment by using reusable bags.

  42. Rifkin

    The Vanguard is effing up the link. If you care to read the article, just Google this:

    An Exploratory Comparative Study on Eco-Impact of Paper and Plastic Bags
    Subramanian Senthilkannan Muthu, Yi Li*, Jun-Yan Hu, Pik-Yin Mok

  43. Rifkin

    ALLY: “… not having a car in this country is like being a second class citizen, thanks to the lack of decent public transportation.”

    Tell me what places you drive your car to where no public transportation exists to take you there? It sounds more like you are choosing the convenience of the evils of capitalism and not really living up to your holier than thou ideals that you seem to want to impose on everyone else with the force of law.

  44. David M. Greenwald

    “Correction: “When you live in a free society, you should [s]not[/s] have the right to choose whatever products you want to use or consume, as long as your doing so does not impose a cost on others or the common good.””

    Isn’t that precisely what is happening here – we are imposing costs on others that the economic system is not accounting for and we are harming the common good?

  45. Adam Smith

    [i]Isn’t that precisely what is happening here – we are imposing costs on others that the economic system is not accounting for and we are harming the common good?[/i]

    Maybe, but the common good is usually much broader than what the environmentalist choose to measure when making such an argument. A good example is the water situation in the Delta, where they’ve used the Endangered Species Act very well, and forced Judge Wanger into issuing orders to comply with it. However, the case pushed by the environmentalists didn’t measure the common good (harm) to society at large, and now the defendants have been able to show that the human and societal impact of shutting down the water is significant. Consequently, the more recent decisions have begun to swing the pendulum back in favor of the common good, instead of the good of a few species of fish.

  46. Rifkin

    [i]”Isn’t that precisely what is happening here – we are imposing costs on others that the economic system is not accounting for and we are harming the common good?”[/i]

    Apparently, there is no harm being done to the common good that would be affected by a ban on plastic grocery bags in Davis, because if there were some actual harm, you would be able to demonstrate it.

    You have, arrogantly in my opinion, said over and over that those of us against the ban need to be educated on this topic. Yet it is telling that you have no real substantial evidence to back up your claims that plastic grocery bags in Davis are causing any tangible harm.

    Instead, the banners make up s##t and seem to hope that the other side is so frickin stupid that they don’t notice that the sh#t is all just sh#t.

  47. Frankly

    Why does the proposed ordinance also ban biodegradable plastic bags? Or, did I misread this?

    Assuming I am correct, this would seem to indicate what I suspected was also true… that the environmentalists have lost their minds.

  48. Frankly

    Based on the current debates wages by environmentalists, it is clear they are stuck on some unattainable vision of zero-impact human existence. You cannot have 6 billion humans (btw – another animal put on this planet by God, chance or aliens) all living in communal hemp tents heated by sunshine, surviving on wild tubers and sustainable rodents. There is a balanced view somewhere about 270 degrees south of what the current environmental political template is. The balanced view takes into consideration that humans have progressed in ways that require consumption and use of natural environmental resources. We can talk about responsible stewardship of the environment, but within in the context of modern life in a fast-paced industrial and information-based economy. If you take away my plastic grocery bag, I am impacted by that in terms of the amount of time and resources I need to spend carrying around reusable bags. Let’s say I forget to put them in my car… then instead of stopping at the store on the way home from work, I first have to go home to get the bags, and then travel back to the store. What is the impact to the environment with the extra fuel I just burned? What is the impact to the economy with the added cost for finding, storing, rotating, carrying, retrieving, cleaning and replacing reusable bags? Lastly, what is the cost of me disliking environmental causes more and more because they don’t seem to know how to stop making my life more miserable based on their dubious, unscientific claims that they know better than me. And if you doubt that, I have a collection of spent florescent bulbs I would like to give you.

  49. jrberg

    Rifkin states:

    [i]For the most part, your charges are not supported by any critically evaluated scientific data. But I would add what I said above: plastic grocery bags are less harmful to the environment than paper bags, and that has been proven by a scientific study. [/i]

    Your reference, Rich, is NOT a scientific study. I read it, and it has numerous flaws. First, many of the references are not to peer reviewed literature, but to websites. To take one example, the Table 1 Energy Data references a consultant’s report. I tried to find that report from the web citation, and it was unavailable. Therefore, as a scientist, I cannot confirm the data cited nor can I evaluate the research methods used to generate that data. After that, nothing else in the article could be considered valid.

    In addition, the real summary in this article matches my conclusion, that assumptions and software used can affect the reported results:

    [i]According to the LCI data and the
    software used for this study, which also has certain
    hypothesis and assumptions, plastic bags are found
    to be little better in terms of environmental impacts
    compared to paper bags. However this stage of
    conclusion solely depends upon the secondary data
    and the LCA software employed for the study.[/i]

    Finally, read this paragraph, and tell me how “scientific” it is:

    [i]This damage on land use could be due to either
    occupation of land or conversion of land to some
    thing else. Although this category of damage is
    applicable to plastic bags, it is much higher for plastic
    bags and it is obvious for paper bags, since they are
    obtained from trees which damage land use much.[/i]

    If you’re going to appeal to science, Rich, find something not quite so sloppy. That last paragraph should certainly make the “lexicon artist” cringe.

  50. E Roberts Musser

    From website apmbags.com:
    “MYTH: Ireland’s 2002 tax on plastic grocery bags reduced plastic bag use by 90%.

    TRUTH: This is partially true, but doesn’t tell the whole story. Use of plastic grocery checkout bags declined, but sales of packaged plastic bags went up by about 400%, resulting in a net gain in plastic bags going to landfills. This shows that most people were reusing their plastic grocery bags for tasks where plastic bags are the best solution – trash can liners, picking up after the dog, wet garbage, etc.

    San Francisco Bag Ban
    MYTH: In 2008, San Francisco banned plastic bags, which resulted in a huge drop in bag use, and an increase in reusable bags.

    TRUTH: Yes, since plastic bags were banned, stores stopped using them. But there was not a huge shift towards reusable bags. Instead, there was a huge increase in paper bag consumption. According to all studies, paper bags are responsible for many times the pollution and oil consumption than plastic bags. Paper is heavier, and not as durable, as plastic and requires far more resources to create, and creates much more air and water pollution. In addition to this, the San Fran Ban also practically eliminated bag recycling programs in the city, and after one year, plastic bag litter (the main reason for the ban) had actually increased.

    Recycling
    MYTH: Recycling plastic bags is extremely costly and difficult.

    TRUTH: Recycling programs are growing all the time, and plastic recycling is actually a very simple, cost effective and energy efficient process. The main products currently made from recycled grocery bags is composite lumber, and new bags.

    Marine Wildlife Tangled in Bags
    MYTH: “Over 100 thousand marine animals die from becoming tangled in discarded plastic bags each year.”

    TRUTH: The report that this myth was based on (a Canadian study from 1987) didn’t mention plastic bags at all. In 2002 the Australian Government commissioned a study on plastic bags, and the authors misquoted the 1987 study. What the original study found was that between 1981 and 1984 over 100 thousand marine mammals and birds were killed by being caught in discarded fishing nets and lines.

    Litter
    MYTH: Plastic bags are a major source of litter, and banning or taxing bags will reduce litter.

    TRUTH: Plastic bags make up less than one percent of all litter…”

  51. E Roberts Musser

    From Wikipedia: “A study issued by the non-profit group American for Tax Reform found that the District of Columbia’s five-cent bag tax had an disproportionate impact on the city’s poor and cost the city over 100 jobs.”

  52. E Roberts Musser

    From http://www.squidoo.com: “For example the Irish Tax led to an increase in bin liner sales and a net 10% increase in plastic bag and film use. Banning plastic bags to encourage the use of reusable bags might cause a shift to paper bags. Environmentally paper bags consume more materials and costs than plastic bags.”

  53. E Roberts Musser

    Don Shor: “Interesting, Elaine; thanks.”

    Your welcome! It has been a spirited debate, but it is important for there to be proper context. What I think people are missing in this debate are:
    1) Banning plastic bags is probably not going to even remotely solve the “problem” people perceive it to be addressing.
    2) Banning plastic bags may have many unintended negative consequences.
    3) Banning plastic bags gives environmentalists a toehold to ban the next thing that comes into their head as a “good idea” w/o thinking it through.

    If anything, I think your idea of providing incentives makes more sense than an outright ban. Incentives such as dmg suggested: eduction, handing out free reusable bags, recycling bins in front of grocery stores, and the like.

  54. Don Shor

    Ban implementation in Santa Monica: [url]http://www.smmirror.com/?ajax#mode=single&view=31678[/url]

    “City staff estimate the initial cost of additional staff and supplies and expenses to implementation of the ordinance will be $60,000. Kubani said this cost will be covered by savings in the current year budget. Funds for implement the ordinance in subsequent years will be requested in future budget cycles. For fiscal year 2011-2012, staff estimates an additional $115,000, and then $75,000 annually in subsequent years.”

    Population of Santa Monica is about 90,000. What is the likely staff cost to implement this in Davis?

  55. Don Shor

    BTW, I can’t imagine why there would be that much staff cost to implement something like this, but I’m not an expert on municipal personnel management.

  56. Rifkin

    jrberg: [i]”If you’re going to appeal to science, Rich, find something not quite so sloppy. That last paragraph should certainly make the ‘lexicon artist’ cringe.”[/i]

    jrb, If you found flaws with their approach, then I am sure others will as well and their “science” will be discredited. That’s what is so valuable about peer-reviewed scientific research. It must pass the scrutiny of people who have the tools to knock it down.

    As to the bad writing, all I can say is that (mostly when I was a grad student and fewer since) I’ve read hundreds of scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals and clunky writing is not uncommon. I should also add that while this paper was published in English, its authors were Chineses (from Hong Kong) and that may be a translation problem.

    One more thing about scholarly articles on the problems of plastics and marine life. I spotted this story ([url]http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/03/plastic-abundant-in-small-fish-in-pacific-garbage-gyre-study-finds.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+GreenspaceEnvironmentBlog+(Greenspace)[/url]) in the L.A. Times this morning, which is based on a scholarly article published in a journal called, “Marine Pollution Bulletin.” (I’m afraid, in the wake of the tragedy in Japan, it was overlooked by most readers.) The headline tells the tale:

    [b]Small fish are ingesting plastic in Pacific garbage gyre[/b]

    Here is the start of the LAT story: [quote] Southern California researchers have found evidence of widespread ingestion of plastic among small fish in the northern Pacific Ocean in a study they say shows the widespread impact of floating litter on the food chain.

    About 35% of the fish collected on a 2008 research expedition off the U.S. West Coast had plastic in their stomachs, according to a study to be presented Friday by the Long Beach-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project.

    The fish, on average, ingested two pieces of plastic, but scientists who dissected hundreds of plankton-eating lantern fish found as many as 83 plastic fragments in a single fish.

    Floating marine debris — most of it discarded plastic — has accumulated in vast, slow-moving ocean currents known as “gyres.” Researchers worry that the ingested plastic can kill marine life or work its way up the food chain to humans.

    Though discarded bottles, containers and fishing line are slowly broken down into small fragments by pounding waves and sunlight, scientists don’t know if they ever totally dissolve.

    Researchers already have documented the immediate threats posed by floating trash to turtles, seabirds and marine mammals that eat or become entangled in the litter, but researchers said this study was the first to try to quantify the effect on the smaller fish. [/quote] I could not read the scholarly article itself, as it is on a subscription site. But I think it adds to the evidence that plastics, in general, are a terrible source of pollution in the oceans*, and essentially are evidence of what economists call “the tragedy of the commons.” It seems to me that the United Nations should be taking up this problem.

    What is not said in the news article–though may be covered in the journal piece–is what this ingestion of plastics by smaller fish is doing to the smaller fish or to the larger creatures which eat them. In other words, is there a great drop-off in the number of lantern fish due to this plastic getting in their systems? Or does plastic not affect their mortality rates? And if it does not affect their mortality rates, are the various larger animals which feed on lantern fish being negatively affected in measurable numbers by eating lanternfish which have ingested plastics? The final question regards human consumption: Will a person who, say, eats a fillet of salmon shark (lamna ditropis) at risk of getting sick or dying because the shark meat he ate was from a shark which ingested plastics?

    A final thought because it was also recently in the news: A UCD team of marine biologists studying Great White Sharks in the Pacific found there are far fewer of them than they expected. I wonder if there has been a mass die-off of Great Whites and if so, is it related to the food chain damage from plastic gyres?

    *I have never disputed that. My dispute is with the hard to believe idea that strewn plastic grocery bags in Davis are winding up in the Pacific.

  57. jrberg

    Rich – yes, I saw that article about ingested plastic bits this morning, but chose not to bring it up to avoid muddying the waters (so to speak). Your questions in your last few paragraphs are very good – and that’s exactly what researchers in this area should be looking at.

    As to the Davis complement of plastics, I don’t think belief should be part of the decision system. Good researched facts should be used, instead.

  58. Rifkin

    Completely off topic …. and of no real importance …

    But I find it both weird and interesting that Hillary Clinton* told a very strange and completely untrue story at her news conference today. For anyone who wants to know what she said, here is my blog entry on it ([url]http://lexicondaily.blogspot.com/2011/03/mysterious-delivery-of-magical-coolant.html[/url]).

    *I am not a Hillary hater. I tend to think she is a well intentioned person for the most part. I can believe she is something of a shrew behind closed doors. But no one is perfect. She has tried hard to serve our country and I admire her for that.

  59. David M. Greenwald

    “*I have never disputed that. My dispute is with the hard to believe idea that strewn plastic grocery bags in Davis are winding up in the Pacific.”

    I won’t argue that there’s a lot, because I’m sure some get into the pacific or at least into waterways which could be a problem even if they do not get into the Pacific.

    Bigger issue for me, is that Davis is leader in environmental policies and if we cannot ban bags here, it’s unlikely that a lot of other communities and the state will be able to.

  60. David M. Greenwald

    I haven’t seen the NRC staff report, but I can’t think it would be that expensive to implement.

    I think we could get some sort of grant funding or even donations to increase the number of cloth/ reusable bags out there.

  61. Don Shor

    Any proposal that comes before the city council, the councilmembers need to begin with this question:[i] what will this cost? [/i]
    If it is a new proposal with a new cost, they should table it. If it is likely to add staff costs, they should table it. The city’s current budget issues should take priority over ALL new spending. If it is completely self-funded, fine. What you are describing (grant funding of reusable bags) shouldn’t even involve the city council. Private citizen groups can do that on their own. Let’ stop turning to the city council to vote on things that private citizens could be doing.

  62. E Roberts Musser

    Don Shor: “Any proposal that comes before the city council, the councilmembers need to begin with this question: what will this cost?
    If it is a new proposal with a new cost, they should table it. If it is likely to add staff costs, they should table it. The city’s current budget issues should take priority over ALL new spending. If it is completely self-funded, fine. What you are describing (grant funding of reusable bags) shouldn’t even involve the city council. Private citizen groups can do that on their own. Let’s stop turning to the city council to vote on things that private citizens could be doing.”

    Well said!

    To Rich Rifkin: As a layperson, I wouldn’t think fish that have ingested plastic would be harmful to humans. The plastic is not likely to break down and be absorbed into the fish’s muscular system. Humans generally do not eat the stomach/intestines/organs of fish or what is inside the stomach/intestines. Fish are usually gutted, and the offal (entrails) w the plastic in it thrown away. You pose a very good queston – so is fish ingesting plastic in any way hurting them? Hurting the animals that eat them?

  63. Rifkin

    DON: [i]”If it is a new proposal with a new cost, they should table it. If it is likely to add staff costs, they should table it.”[/i]

    I don’t think staff cost is a hard problem to overcome. I don’t support a tax on bags (because it is a solution in search of a problem), but if we had one here is how the tax would pay for any City staff costs:

    1. According to the banners, the 37.3 million people in California are using 19 billion bags per year. We have 65,000 people in Davis, so that means we are using 33,109,920 bags.

    2. Let’s say that, because of people in Davis who choose paper or bring a canvas bag or shop out of town, usage is only 75% of that in the rest of California. That means we use only 24,832,440 bags in Davis each year;

    2. Let’s say we imposed a 2 cent per plastic grocery bag tax on each plastic grocery bag used, payable by the merchant to the City of Davis;

    3. Let’s say that 2 cent tax caused the usage of plastic grocery bags in Davis to fall by 25%, down to just 18,624,330 bags per year;

    4. So at 2 cents each, our local tax would generate $372,486.60 per year.

    That should be more than enough to pay the costs of staff to collect this tax and administer the program. In fact, it likely would cost much less than that and it would become a source of revenue for the City’s coffers.

    What is hard to know is how merchants in Davis would react. Some might just stop offering plastic grocery bags altogether, to avoid paying the tax and to avoid dealing with City staff on this issue.

  64. Rifkin

    Correction: My ordination above suggests I was not paying attention in the first grade. My apologies to Mrs. Reed, who despite my failings, was a good teacher.

  65. Rifkin

    One more note: I don’t know if state law would permit Davis to impose a plastic grocery bag tax, in part because we are a general law city.

    Some years ago, I had the idea that we should have a small (2 to 5 cents per gallon) fuel tax in Yolo County cities and unincorporated locales in order to fund a better and safer bike lane network. Ideally, I would like Yolo County to have decent bike lanes such that anyone could safely ride from Clarksburg to West Sac to Davis or Woodland to Winters and all the way up to the far reaches of the Capay Valley.

    It seemed to me that a tax on gasoline and diesel made the best sense to pay for the bike lanes, in that the tax would be encouraging a healthy mode of transport and slightly discouraging a less healthy mode.

    However, I was informed that such a local fuel tax was illegal, because of state laws which govern general law cities and counties. As such, I suspect a bag tax might be illegal, as well.

  66. Don Shor

    If you read the link I provided, you’ll see that Santa Monica concluded that they couldn’t have the retailers pass on the fees collected without a 2/3 vote of the public; such fees are now considered taxes due to Prop 26. [url]http://www.smmirror.com/?ajax#mode=single&view=31678[/url]
    So they require that retailers charge the fee, keep it, and report “the number of paper bags distributed and the amount of money they collect from the cost pass-through for the bags on a semi-annual basis.” Thus the city gets nothing from this, but has staff costs. However, I don’t know the basis for their cost estimates.

  67. Rifkin

    [quote]Under Prop 26, Santa Monica’s proposed bag ban would have required a two-thirds approval from voters or the legislature. So Santa Monica City staff went back and tweaked the ordinance. As it reads now, stores retain revenue from the recyclable paper bag at the time of sale fee – no funds are raised to fund any government agencies which is what Prop 26 prohibits unless approved by a two-thirds voter approval or by the legislature. [/quote] Sounds to me like the SMCC feared they could not get 2/3rds of the voters to agree to their bag ban.

    Moreover, that law is strange in the way it also bans paper bags.

    I think because Santa Monica is right on the ocean, there at least is some rationale behind their stance. Maybe other beach communities will follow them, as the article implies.

    However, that convoluted approach brings a lot of cost to consumers and no benefits to the community for Davis. I vote no.

  68. rusty49

    So it’s looking like the city won’t get any proceeds from the sale of the bags but it will incur staff costs. So when we’re in a budgetary crisis we’re going to pass a law that basically does little good but make liberals feel all happy inside and it’s going to put us deeper in the hole. Let’s hope our city council is smarter than this.

  69. Adam Smith

    [i]Bigger issue for me, is that Davis is leader in environmental policies and if we cannot ban bags here, it’s unlikely that a lot of other communities and the state will be able to. [/i]

    I’d prefer that we become known for our exercise of sound financial management and good school systems, as opposed to a leader in plastic bag bans. SF has already staked out the claim for plastic bags, lets find something that makes a meaningful difference to our community.

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