Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008 | When volunteers scoured San Diego County’s beaches for litter this year and last, they plucked 12,409 plastic bags from the sandy seashore.
San Diego’s City Council is poised to consider Wednesday whether to address that type of litter at its source. A council subcommittee will discuss Wednesday morning whether the city should outlaw the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies.
Plastic bags have become ubiquitous in California: Residents use an estimated 19 billion annually — 519 per person. And while once viewed as more environmentally friendly than paper — no trees are chopped down to make a plastic bag — cities across the state are increasingly targeting the one-use flimsy plastic sacks as a way to reduce litter, cut petroleum consumption and ultimately facilitate a shift to reusable bags. San Francisco, Malibu, Fairfax and Manhattan Beach have all banned plastic bags, which unlike paper do not break down easily in the environment.
San Diego’s proposed law would require large grocery stores and pharmacies to stop bagging items in plastic as of July 1, 2009. They’d instead be required to use recyclable paper bags or cloth bags. Customers would have to pay a 25-cent fee for each paper bag, aiming to increase cloth-bag use.
Those lobbying for the ban say it’s an important step in keeping bags out of an ocean increasingly beset by plastic pollution. Turtles can mistake bags for jellyfish and suffocate or suffer clogged intestines when they eat them.
“We need to change our behavior as consumers and think about where these bags are going after we’re done with them.” said Danielle Miller, outreach director for San Diego Coastkeeper, an environmental group supporting a ban. “There’s an impact to the beach and the community. We don’t want our beaches to be strewn with plastic bag litter.”