Present-day Sunnyvale, California is known as “The Heart of Silicon Valley,” but if you walk into any grocery store or stroll through the downtown farmer’s market in this tech town you’ll notice another trend: people carry reusable bags when shopping.
Four years ago, my hometown hopped on the bag ban-wagon, joining our region’s largest cities including San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose in working to address the Bay’s pollution problem.
Before Sunnyvale’s plastic bag ban went into effect in early June 2012, storefronts around town posted signs that read “Did you bring your reusable bags?”
To me this message was more than a friendly reminder—it revealed the city’s commitment to sustainability and curbing urban pollution.
My friends and Sunnyvale natives Jessica Aronson and Justin Matsuura were also thrilled about the new change and viewed this ordinance as a natural next step in ensuring a plastic-free California.
Unfortunately, ridding our state of this toxic non-biodegradable trash has turned into a drawn-out multiyear dogfight between California and out-of-state polluters.
So why are Californians forced to decide on a statewide plastic bag ban, again? The answer is simple: the Plastic Bag Industry cares more about making green than going green. That’s why there are two propositions on the November 2016 ballot about the same issue: Proposition 65 and Proposition 67.
Big Plastic has spent millions to fool voters into supporting Prop 65—a very regressive and disingenuous measure that would repeal the state’s existing ban approved by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014.
“It’s so frustrating that we have to fight so hard to protect our planet,” says Aronson. Keeping the bag ban to prevent toxic waste from building up around our homes and in our waterways seems like common sense.”
Having lived in an area where bags are banned, my friends and I know firsthand that transitioning to life without plastic bags is a natural adjustment that also makes you feel good.
“I do feel better about the environment and myself when I pull out my reusable bags instead of using plastic bags,” says Matsuura. “Sometimes it even turns into a conversation starter!”
The simple act of bringing a reusable bag to the store quickly becomes second nature, making the experience of going to a store in a community where disposable bags are still legally distributed feel jarring.
“Traveling to areas without the ban seem bizarre.” Aronson explains, “It reminds me of how much waste people are still creating with single-use bags.”
In the years following the Sunnyvale Bag Ban, hardly any signs reminding shoppers to bring their reusable bags remain. And honestly, there is no real need for them anymore.
More importantly, this local ban has turned plastic bag litter into a problem of the past. A recent study reveals a 100% reduction in the number of single use plastic bags found in municipal trash capture devices. This is good news because stormwater is the largest source of pollution in San Francisco Bay.
Proposition 67 would allow cities throughout California to achieve similar victories in reducing plastic bag pollution. Matsuura believes this initiative will “keep our state trending in renewable, recyclable, and sustainable practices for our future.”
As Californians, we all favor policies that protect the environment and inspire sustainable choices. We also believe that intentionally destroying our environment for financial gain is not okay. That’s whyour state’s most credible editorial boards, elected officials, and environmental leaders and organizations including Save The Bay vehemently oppose Proposition 65 and support Prop 67.
Join Jessica, Justin, and me next week in voting for a plastic-free California. It’s time to put the Golden State back on the map as an environmental leader invested not in financial gain, but in preserving this place we call home.
Vivian is a Communications Specialist at Save The Bay. She provides support for all outreach efforts and takes photographs for us. When she's not in the office, you can find Vivian hiking Bay Area trails, backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, or rooting for local sports teams!