Plastic Pollution, Bag Bans
July 03 2018

Plastic Free July and International Plastic Bag Free Day!

by Bill Hickman

Summer is here and so is #plasticfreejuly where all across the world businesses, governments, and everyday people will look for ways to reduce their plastic footprint. July is the time to be with family and friends out on our favorite beaches enjoying the good weather and warmer water, and is also the time the plastic pollution crisis becomes the most visible. International Plastic Bag Free Day is today, June 3, and reminds us of the hard-fought battles Surfrider chapters and many other organizations have waged to protect our ocean from plastic bags and the work ahead.

Surfrider and the “Ban the Bag” campaign:

Surfrider and other groups were raising awareness about plastic bag pollution for years before San Francisco became the first city with a plastic bag ban for grocery stores in 2007 that expanded to all retailers and food establishments in 2013. After the initial plastic bag ban in San Francisco, 150 more cities and municipalities passed local bag bans throughout the state and Surfrider volunteers were behind many of these local ordinances. State legislators in Sacramento took notice and introduced various versions of a statewide plastic bag ban.

On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 67 which banned single-use plastic bags from most grocery stores, retail stores with a pharmacy, convenience stores, food marts, and liquor stores. This was a key coastal victory that Surfrider rallied behind.

The Fight Continues…

Surfrider activists continue to win plastic bag ban campaigns including in Victoria, British Columbia that in a key victory, won out a challenge in court.  On the other hand, Surfrider continues to battle state preemption of local plastic bag ordinances. In an unfortunate recent case, the state of Texas ruled that state law preempts the local bag ban in the city of Laredo showing that the fight to ban the bag still faces strong opposition at the state level. 

What can you do to reduce your plastic footprint this holiday weekend?

This weekend is 4th of July and a lot of us will be down on the beach or at a park enjoying some food with friends and family. It’s easy to replace plastic bags but remember that plastic bags are just the tip of the plastic pollution iceberg. This holiday, and all summer long, avoid all single-use plastics when you can. Remember your mug or reusable cup when getting beverages to go. Just say no when it comes to items like plastic straws and utensils. You don’t need them and there are some great reusable options available. Also try to avoid foam coolers that always seem to break apart the first time they are used. Finally, help plan zero-waste gatherings and participate in local cleanups.

July 5, the day after

The busiest clean-up day of the year is the day after 4th of July as litter from gatherings ends up on our favorite beaches and outdoor spaces. This is a great time to protect your local place and ensure the plastic on the sand never makes it to the ocean. Join a beach cleanup with your local Surfrider chapter, do your own mini cleanup, and best of all, support programs such as Ocean Friendly Restaurants, the many variations of Surfrider Straw programs and campaigns, local plastic pollution efforts, and other preventive measures so the plastic never reaches our beaches in the first place!

Here is to the enjoyment of our ocean, waves, and beaches free from plastic!

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