Environmental activists emphasize the benefits of reducing the use of plastic bags. Plastics are a huge portion of what ends up in our oceans and have a dramatic effect on marine life. As a long time Surfrider Foundation member myself, I’ve participated in over 50 beach clean ups in the last year, and have seen firsthand the amount of plastic that invades our coastal areas. In both California and on Long Island, where I’ve cleaned beaches, I’ve learned that plastic is a pervasive issue, and that no matter how many times we clean up after ourselves, the plastic keeps showing up. A ban or disincentive to use plastic bags appears to be a sustainable way of addressing this problem.


Coastal communities are ideal locations for single-use plastic bag bans as plastic pollution in the ocean is especially hard to address. As you read this, there is a growing mass of plastic trash circulating around the Pacific Gyre in the Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of Texas and growing! Since plastic does not biodegrade it remains in the ocean for hundreds of years where it breaks down into tiny particles that resemble plankton.  Fish and other marine life mistake “plastic plankton” for food and thus, plastic enters our food web.  


In just the past few weeks, numerous stories and editorials in the Times-Standard have highlighted the problems associated with single-use plastic bags and the harm they inflict on marine life. More plastic litters the ocean than any other trash source. The pictures of wildlife entangled in plastic or starving because they ingest plastic trash mistaking it for food are heartbreaking enough, but the statistics are even more shocking. An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million sea birds die every year as a result of ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic.