Reflections on the Scotts Valley Plastic Bag Ban Debate.
Thanks Russell and Civinomics for covering the bag ban issue in Scotts Valley. You can be certain I’ll do everything I can to avoid spending money in Scotts Valley. If their council can’t be bothered to do the right thing for the environment then I can’t support their businesses that will most likely continue to dispense the single use plastic plague.
David, I have to respectfully disagree on this one.
As background, since you and others who read this don’t know me, I worked in recycling for 25 years, and ran the recycling program at UC Santa Cruz and before that, UC Davis. I’m a staunch advocate for the environment, as you might guess.
I do a lot of shopping in Scotts Valley, and not once have I had a merchant try to press a plastic bag on me. Knob Hill gladly packs my groceries in re-usable bags, and gives me paper bags when I forget my re-usable ones. I’ve had the same experience at the other stores I frquent there, including Scotts Valley Cycle Sport, an MBOSC sponsor by the way.
The big problem with plastic bags is the people who litter them. Banning them punishes all of us who don’t litter. Its like banning cars because some folks drive recklessly, or banning bikes from trails because some folks ride irresponsibly. The markets for plastic film are robust, with many durable secondary uses for the material.
The push to ban plastic bags left a bad taste in my mouth, as it seemed largely to be driven by activists from outside the city, many of whom backed their arguments with nasty comments about either the community in general or more specifically those who disagreed with them. That’s hardly a way to build support for an idea.
While it appears that the mayor was less than forthcoming about his biases in this issue, his was only one vote on the city council. And with a statewide ban on plastic bags now appearing likely, punishing the city and the people who work there seems mean spirited and not in the best interest of gaining support for future county wide projects.
Dave, thanks so much for responding to my re-post on this article, you’ve got a great background on the subject so your opinion carries a great deal of weight. I’m pleased to hear that most of your merchants don’t pack your goods in plastic, in my experience that is the exception where single use shopping bags aren’t banned. It may sound harsh to avoid shopping in Scotts Valley (it is definitely not mean-spirited), but when dealing with consumption issues the pocketbook seems to carry the most weight. Is there a better way for someone from outside the jurisdiction to show disagreement with the outcome of the vote? This sounds like a clear cut case of elected representatives failing to hear their constituency, or perhaps a failure of the constituency (and businesses) to organize and be heard on an issue.
I spent eight years studying marine debris accumulation on Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay and on our 2010 study we discovered that the fifth most common item we found floating beneath the Golden Gate Bridge was plastic bags. The only way that I know to keep them from flowing into the ocean is to ban them, as they have in over 100 communities in California already. We were also directly involved in messaging the dangers of single use plastics on the environment to 25,000 individuals. By our own estimation the best method we found for changing behavior was to provide education on the impacts of single use plastic in the environment and leave our guests with their own re-usable shopping bag so I definitely agree with you on the importance of education. Personally, I’ve got my fingers crossed that SB270 passes in Sacramento this year to establish a statewide ban on single use plastic shopping bags. Dave, thanks again for commenting!
I’m always amazed how ‘civilization’ survived for so long without the single use plastic bag at our disposal…