Say goodbye to plastic bags
In what was almost a surprising show of unanimity, the Sonoma City Council voted 5-0 Monday night to support a campaign, driven by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, to develop a county-wide ordinance banning single-use, carry-out plastic bags.
Plastic bag bans have a mixed history of success, but the tide of scientific and public opinion is moving steadily in that direction, and the reasons are becoming more obvious every day. We are reiterating some of those reasons below, culled from a January editorial, that we will probably repeat yet again when a decision point draws closer.
As a good part of the world now knows, there is an ocean vortex in the Pacific between San Francisco and Hawaii that is twice the size of the state of Texas and largely composed of what scientists estimate is 3.5 million tons of plastic. This floating garbage patch is essentially a biologic dead zone and an integral part of it is the ubiquitous plastic bag, of which it is believed up to a trillion are made and discarded every year. That's over a million bags a minute, more than 16,000 bags a second.
The Worldwatch Institute says the United States alone consumes about 12 million barrels of oil to produce some 100 billion plastic bags a year, at a cost of $500,000,000.
Ocean scientists say plastic bags kill about 100,000 marine animals a year, including whales, dolphins and endangered sea turtles. It can take the bags 400 to 1,000 years to decompose, which means they could still be floating around the ocean after the last sea turtle has disappeared.
The bags are still omnipresent in eco-conscious California where, according to a Sierra Club analysis, less than 5 percent of the state's plastic bags are actually recycled. And that's 5 percent of 19 billion, according to Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who failed to win passage of a statewide plastic bag ban last fall. Cleaning up the state's bag mess, Brownley said, costs $25 million a year.
Meanwhile, numerous communities have already imposed bans of varying severity - including Los Angeles County, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Marin County, and the islands of Maui and Kaua'i.
And while a national bag ban doesn't seem likely here soon, even Italy, where annual consumption exceeds 300 bags a person, has adopted a ban. We'd like to see Sonoma County follow suit.
Red and white all over
Saturday, in case you've somehow missed the message, will be the resurrection of a cherished Sonoma tradition, the Red and White Ball. Now dedicated to support of Sonoma Valley public schools, and priced to fit a wide range of budgets, the ball is simultaneously more important and more affordable than ever before. You can bring your own meal and party for as little as $25, or you can go whole-hog with the "Farm to Table" dinner for $150. Whatever your party penchant the dancing will be delightful and the cause exceptionally worthy. Call 935-9566 for tickets, or buy dance-only tickets onsite. We hope to see you there.