Congrats to Surfrider - Sonoma County Bans Plastic Bags

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After much legwork by the Sonoma Coast Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, The Sonoma County (California) Waste Management Agency voted unanimously to ban plastic bags countywide. The bag ban was a long haul that took many appearances and presentations before city councils throughout the county that opposed the ban. After a unanimous vote by the cities in Sonoma County, the ordinance went into effect March 21, 2014, and enforcement will start September 1, 2014. Why is this important? One of the most serious threats to our oceans is plastics pollution. Thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and seabirds die each year from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic. Plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. The problem is that  plastic does not biodegrade; instead, it photo-degrades with sunlight, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, but they never really disappear. These plastic pieces are consumed by marine life or break down into microscopic plastic dust, attracting more debris.

Plastic accumulates in swirling vortexes called ocean gyres (areas of slow spiraling water and low winds). The North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California is home to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch".  It is the largest ocean garbage site in the world and is bigger than Texas with debris extending 20 feet (6 meters) down into the water column. It is estimated that at present this “plastic island” contains 3.5 million tons of trash and could double in size in the next 5 years.

  • Plastic bags are petroleum-based and do not biodegrade.

  • Sea turtles and other marine creatures mistake plastics and other garbage as food (such as jellyfish) and eat it, causing blockages in their digestive system and eventual death.

  • According to the US EPA, Americans use more than 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce this many bags. Worldwide, as many as one trillion plastic bags are used each year. This equates to 100 million barrels of oil!

  • Plastic toxins end up in fish, which end up on our plates, which end up inside our bodies.

  • Less than 5% of plastics are recycled worldwide!

Great Work by Surfrider Foundation!