Thursday, July 24, 2014

Davis, we’re falling behind on plastic bags

By Drucella Anne Miranda

When people first think of Davis, they often think of UC Davis. We are all aware that the university is known for its prestigious agriculture and veterinary programs, but more recently, UCD is known for its environmental contributions.

The city of Davis also has a history of environmental consciousness. But is Davis living up to its reputation? As I was collecting petitions for the California Public Interest Research Group’s Oceans Campaign to ban single-use plastic bags locally on a Saturday at the Farmers Market, the reaction I got from several people was, “Wow, that hasn’t passed in Davis yet?”

According to the 2012 Davis Natural Resources Commission staff report, the plastic bags we bring home after shopping make up approximately 50 to 60 percent of our litter in the Yolo County Central Landfill. It’s also estimated that 1,815 man-hours per year are spent picking up litter at the landfill. This means that roughly $34,000 is spent annually on cleanup costs just for plastic bags. Banning plastic bags would save money locally and help reduce overall waste production in California.

More importantly, a bag ban would help protect the Earth in the long run. We may not live near an ocean, which is becoming increasingly polluted with plastic and other debris, but we are still a part of this planet.

Plastic bags are also affecting our environment on a local level as bags get caught in nesting areas of local wildlife. The truth is we need to put in some effort to remember to bring our own reusable bags because nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our world for hundreds of years.

Sixty-four cities in California already have banned plastic bags. We should not let Davis fall behind as California transitions to help protect our environment. A Davis ordinance has not yet passed because our City Council has not scheduled the vote yet.

Last year, council members said they would make a decision after the state votes on the statewide bag ban. For the second year in a row, the state has shown it is not going to take action on this issue. Davis’ City Council needs to step up now and give legislators one more reason to vote on a statewide bag ban when it comes up again.

Here’s what will happen if the ordinance goes into effect: Single-use plastic bags will be banned in Davis stores, but businesses downtown are exempted. Also, stores will sell paper bags for under 10 cents if you do not have reusable cloth bags of your own.

Davis is falling behind. With a goal of becoming zero-waste and the reputation of being an environmentally progressive city on the line, it just makes sense for Davis to follow the lead of other forward-thinking cities and ban single-use plastic bags.

We urge you to voice your support; let the City Council know this is something that residents support. You can do this by emailing council members, urging them to schedule a vote, by signing the CalPIRG petition at the Farmers Market and, most importantly, by spreading the world about this issue and its importance among your friends and family members. The more people who come on board and are vocal on this issue, the sooner we will achieve this great leap forward.

— Drucella Anne Miranda just completed her first year at UC Davis. An environmental science major, she was a spring-quarter intern for CalPIRG’s Oceans Campaign.

Special to The Enterprise


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