Ban the Bag! My Letter to Flagstaff City Council

peaks (c) 2015 Holly TroyIf you have been following my blog, you may already get that I am awed by the beauty of Flagstaff. The landscape and the people here are special, and they are in my heart. A recent city council proposal has come up to ban plastic bags, so I wrote a letter. If you are a resident of Flagstaff, I urge you to write a letter to the city council as well. (council@flagstaffaz.gov) If you live somewhere else, I urge you to start up a conversation in your own community. My letter includes a list of cities across the United States that have already banned the bag – I hope it inspires you.

Think Globally – Act Locally! 


 

Dear Flagstaff City Council,

I love Flagstaff. Coming from New York City, I’m aware that most people from back east don’t even know Flagstaff exists – unless they come out here to visit the Grand Canyon. Every day that I look up and see the peaks and feel the sun shining on my face, I am grateful for this place. We have an ecosytem that is not only unique, but exquisitely beautiful. If people can’t wrap their minds around the environmental damage we suffer from plastic packaging, then, plastic bags and other trash marring the loveliness of our landscape alone should be enough to make people think twice about utilizing single-use plastic bags at the grocery checkout.
 
While the people of Flagstaff have diverse political backgrounds, I think most of us care about the environment. Banning bags seems like a simple way to begin to protect our surroundings. One shop that I frequent, Natural Grocers, has already done away with using bags at all. Instead, Natural Grocers reuses the boxes their packaged food is shipped in. Brilliant and simple! The shop has a lot less box recycling to deal with and customers make it home with their groceries intact.
 
I was interested in finding out which cities in the U.S. have banned single-use plastic bags, so I did a little research. First of all, more cities than I thought have banned plastic bags! Some of those cities are pretty big, too – San Francisco (California), Los Angeles (California), Chicago (Illinois), Austin (Texas), Dallas (Texas), and Portland (Oregon) all have bans. Many of the cities have a $.10 to $.25 fee for reusable bags and paper bags. The first person to comment on Eva Putzova’s Special to the AZ Daily Sun, Would A Ban on Plastic Bags Do Much Good? Yes suggests a fee for bags and to “let the market decide.” OK, but make fees expensive, like Brownsville, Texas has done, and charge $1.00 each for reusable plastics and paper bags.
 
Below is a list of cities in the United States that have plastic bag ban ordinances. The cities in blue have links to their ordinances. The years listed after the cities are when the plastic bag bans went into effect, not when the ordinances were drawn up. 
 
Alaska

Bethel 2010
Homer Bay 2010

Arizona
Bisbee 2014

California
Arcata 2014
Belmont 2013
Belvedere 2015Brisbane 2013
Burlingame 2013 

Calabasas 2011

Calistoga 2015
Campbell 2014 
Capitola 2013
Carmel-by-the-Sea 2013
Carpinteria 2013
Chico 2015/2016
Colma 2013
Culver City 2013
Cupertino 2013
Daly City 2013
Dana Point 2013
Danville 2016
Davis 2014.
Desert Hot Springs 2014/2015 
East Palo Alto 2013
El Cerrito 2014
Encinitas 2015

Fairfax Fairfax adopted its ban on plastic bags August 2007. After a legal challenge by the plastic industry, Fairfax voters overwhelmingly adopted a plastic bag ban by initiative in November 2008.

Fort Bragg 2013
Foster City 2103
Glendale 2014
Gonzales 2015
Grass Valley 2015
Greenfield 2015
Half Moon Bay 2013
Hercules 2015
Huntington Beach 2013
Indio 2014/2015
King City 2015
Lafayette 2015
Laguna Beach 2013
Larkspur 2014
Long Beach 2011/2012
Los Altos 2013
Los Angeles City 2014

Los Angeles County 2011/2012

Los Gatos 2014

Malibu 2008

Manhattan Beach The Manhattan Beach City Council voted to ban plastic bags in July 2008. The CA Supreme Court overturned a legal challenge to the ordinance in July 2011 and the bag ordinance went into effect six months later. The council modified the ordinance in 2012 and again in 2014.

Marin County 2012
Marina 2014
Martinez 2014/2015
Mendocino County The County Board of Supervisors adopted a plastic bag ban with a ten cent paper bag charge on June 12, 2012. Effective in large stores in January 2013, and all other retailers in January 2014. Amendments to expand the ordinance to restaurants was adopted February 25, 2014, effective August 12, 2014. Unincorporated County areas only.
Menlo Park 2013
Mill Valley 2013
Millbrae 2012 in all retail establishments, except for restaurants, non-profits, and dry-cleaners
Monrovia 2015 
Monterey 2011
Monterey County 2014
Mountain View 2013
Napa 2014
Nevada City 2015
Novato 2014
Ojai 2012
Pacific Grove 2015
Pacifica 2013
Palm Desert 2015
Palm Springs 2015
Palo Alto In 2013, the Palo Alto City Council adopted an expansion of a 2009 ordinance to include all stores and restaurants under its plastic bag ban. Paper and reusable bags would be available with a minimum charge. Previously, the ordinance only applied to plastic bags at large supermarkets.
Pasadena 2012
Pico Rivera 2016
Pittsburg 2014
Portola Valley 2013
Redwood City 2013
Richmond 2014  
Ross 2014
Salinas 2014
San Anselmo 2015
San Bruno 2013
San Carlos 2013

San Francisco 2007

San Jose 2012
San Luis Obispo County and City, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach 2012
San Mateo City 2013
San Mateo County 2013
San Pablo 2014
San Rafael 2014
Santa Barbara City 2014
Santa Clara City 2014
Santa Clara County 2012
Santa Cruz City 2013
Santa Cruz County 2012, 2013
Santa Monica 2011
Santa Rosa 2014
Sausalito 2014
Seaside 2014/2015
Solana Beach 2012
Soledad 2015
Sonoma County Waste Management Agency (Sonoma City and County, Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Windsor) 2014
South Lake Tahoe 2014
South Pasadena 2014
South San Francisco 2013
St Helena 2015
Sunnyvale 2013
Tiburon 2014
Truckee 2014
Ukiah 2012
Walnut Creek 2014
Watsonville 2012
West Hollywood 2012

Colorado
Aspen 2012
Boulder 2013
Carbondale The Carbondale Board of Trustees approved an ordinance in October 2011. Like Aspen’s ordinance, it bans plastic bags and places a 20 cent charge on paper bags in grocery stores with 3,500 square feet or more. A referendum placed the ordinance on the ballot in April 2012 and voters in Carbondale affirmed the Trustees’ decision. Effective May 2012.
Fort Collins 2015
Telluride 2011

Connecticut
Westport 2008

Washington, DC
Washington The District of Columbia Council voted June 2009 to require retailers to charge a $0.05 fee on all carryout bags. 

Hawaii
Hawaii County 2012
Honolulu County 2012
Kauai County 2011
Maui County 2011

Illinois
Chicago Passed April 30th, 2014.  Effective August 2015 for retailers of more than 10,000 square feet. The ban will extend to smaller chain stores and franchises August, 2016. Small independent or non-franchise stores and restaurants will not be affected. 
Evanston 2015

Iowa

Marshall County 2009

Maine

Portland In 2014, Portland adopted a 5 cent charge per single-use bag in grocery stores. Effective April 15, 2015.

Maryland
Montgomery County The County followed the example of the neighboring District of Columbia and passed a 5 cent minimum price requirement on single-use plastic and paper bags in May 2011. It is effective January 2012. Applies to all retailers.
Chestertown 2012

Massachusetts
Brookline 2013
Falmouth 2016
Great Barrington 2014
Manchester  2013
Marblehead 2015
Nantucket 1990
Newport 2016
Provincetown 2015

New Mexico
Santa Fe 2013
Silver City 2014

New York
East Hampton Town 2015
East Hampton Village 2012
Hastings-on-Hudson 2015
Larchmont 2013
Mamaroneck 2013
New Paltz Village 2015
Rye 2012
Southampton Town 2015
Southampton Village 2011

North Carolina
Hyde, Currituck and Dare Counties The North Carolina Legislatures banned plastic in the Barrier Islands in June 2009. The ban was extended to all businesses in the three counties in 2010.

Oregon
Corvallis 2012
Eugene 2013
Portland 2013

Rhode Island
Barrington 2015

Texas
Austin 2013
Brownsville 2011
Dallas 2015
Fort Stockton 2011
Freer 2013
Kermit 2013
Laguna Vista 2013
Laredo 2015
Port Aransas 2016
South Padre Island 2012
Sunset Valley 2013

Washington
Bainbridge Island 2012
Bellingham 2011
Edmonds 2009
Issaquah 2013/2014
Lacey 2014
Mukilteo 2013
Olympia 2014
Port Townsend 2012
Shoreline 2014
Thurston County 2014
Tumwater 2014

The above list may be found on Californians Against Waste – National List of Local Plastic Bag Ordinances

To go even further, I decided to see where bags are banned around the world. This is just a partial list from The Surfider Foundation

INTERNATIONAL 

Australia – The Government of South Australia enacted a ban on plastic checkout bags effective May 2009 while the Northern Territory has a similar ban effective since September 2011.  The Australian Capitol Territory passed and enacted their plastic bag ban in 2011 also.  Woorabinda is the first city in Queensland with a plastic bag ban, effective November 2012.  Fremantle was the first city in West Australia to ban thin plastic bags in January, 2013.  Tasmania passed a plastic checkout bag ban in 2013 that is effective November 2013.

Bangladesh – In 2002 Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags, a big reason was that littered bags exacerbated flooding.  Results have been mixed due to a lack of enforcement.

Cameroon – In August 2013, authorities in Cameroon have begun rolling out a campaign to eliminate non-degradable plastic bags by early 2014.

Chile – In June 2013, Pucon became the first city to address plastic litter with a plastic bag ban.

China – In 2008 China banned the manufacture or use of the thinnest types of plastic bags. They also prohibit supermarkets, department stores, and grocery stores from giving away thicker varieties, requiring them to charge customers for the bags.  The government claims big reductions while others claim more enforcement is needed.

Haiti – Haiti’s government ordered a plastic bag and foam foodware ban effective October 2012 but early reports claim a lack of enforcement as alternatives are sourced.

India – Efforts are underway to ban plastic bags in various parts of the county but there are no solid reports of effective programs or legislation to date.

Ireland – One of the first plastic bag reduction programs on a large scale started in Ireland in 2002 with their plastic bag fee.  The latest figures (in 2013) suggest there has been a 20-fold decrease since the levy was introduced in 2002.

Italy – In 2011 the Italian government announced a nationwide plastic checkout bag effective March 2012.  Merchants must discontinue the use of traditional single-use plastic bags in favor of bioplastic bags that are biodegradable and compostable or meet other specific requirements.

Ivory Coast – The Prime Minister announced a law banning the production, use and selling of plastic bags in the Ivory Coast effective December 2013.

Mali – The Malian government will ban the production, importation, possession, sale and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags, under a law passed in 2012 and effective 2013.

Mauritania – “Mauritania has banned the use of plastic bags to protect the environment and the lives of land and sea animals.  More than 70% of cattle and sheep that die in the capital, Nouakchott, are killed by eating plastic bags, environment ministry official Mohamed Yahya.”

Northern Ireland – The Northern Ireland Executive passed the Carrier Bag Levy in 2011 and it is effective April 2013.  Retailers in Northern Ireland charge at least five pence for each carrier bag handed out to customers, as part of a drive across the province to reduce plastic waste.

Pakistan – The Islamabad Capital Territory passed a plastic bag ban that takes effect on April 1, 2013.  This law bans conventional plastic bag but allows for ‘oxo biodegradable’ bags, which allows bags to degrade into plastic pieces quicker.  Not the best solution.

Phillippeans – The Philippines financial capital of Makati has banned disposable plastic shopping bags and EPS foam food containers starting in June 2013.  The law is partly to help deal with increased flooding from plastic litter.

Rwanda – A countrywide ban on plastic bags was enacted in 2008 with positive reports through to late 2013.

South Africa – A countrywide levy on plastic checkout bags went into effect in May 2003 with proceeds intended to fund a national recycling program.  Reports have been mixed:  plastic bag consumption is down and litter is likely down but there is no data to accurately report on litter.  A 2010 analysis concluded that the levy was too low to be truly effective.  

Tanzania – A countrywide ban on plastic bags has been urged by the federal governemnt since 1996 with minimal results.  Pembra Island has been successful in curbing plastic bag litter according to a 2012 news story.

Wales – The Welsh Government has introduced a 5p minimum charge on all bags (including paper bags) effective October 2011.

* * * * 

Flagstaff is a special, beautiful place. Let’s keep it that way. Ban plastic bags.

Thank you for your consideration and time.

Best,

Holly Troy (Flagstaff resident since 2007)