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Get rid of plastic bags, Santa Barbara

James Crosby

James Crosby

Jennifer Rufer, Features Editor

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County officials announced a new policy regarding single-use plastic bags Monday.

Grocery, newspaper, and produce bags are now accepted in your blue recycling bin throughout Santa Barbara County.

While I support the county’s effort to provide a way to get rid of these plastics in an environmentally friendly manner, I wonder what motivates these same officials to resist the trend of banning single-use plastic bags altogether.

So, I pose the question: Should the county ban plastic bags from a store near you?

With all of Santa Barbara’s affluence combined with its history of environmental movements, I am confused why the ban has yet to be passed thus far. Surely, we are surrounded by intelligent, informed, and proactive people.

Plastic bags are often the target of environmental movements because they are easily tossed around on windy days, eaten by animals that mistake them for food, and won’t biodegrade.

Of the 29 million bags given out a year within Santa Barbara, only an estimated five percent of them get recycled. The remaining 95 percent end up in landfills, oceans, and rivers. Hopefully, citizens of Santa Barbara can take this new recycling initiative as a way to prevent more damage to the environment and wildlife.

Santa Barbara County’s recycling website,, states, the plastic bags “are a permanent object made for only minutes of use.”

It sounds like county officials understand that the use of the plastic bags is ridiculous. So if the county can admit there’s a problem, why won’t they pass an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags?

San Francisco was the first Californian city to adopt the plastic bag ban in April 2007, while many other cities and counties followed. In Jan., San Luis Obispo County adopted a ban.

The most common solution is to obliterate the plastic bag supply and charge between 10 cents and 25 cents for each paper bag.

Keep in mind that the issue of banning plastic bags isn’t new to Santa Barbara.

Last July, mayor and council members of Santa Barbara released a report on the harmful effects of plastic bags that states, “there is evidence that single use plastic bags in the marine environment can harm marine organisms. However, the number of plastic bags generated within the city that make their way into the marine environment is unknown.”

Why should the number matter? Enough is enough.

I can’t comprehend why we need a law in order to act on something that’s right.

Using canvas or other types of bags reduce waste, preserve natural resources, and their handles won’t break on you.

The primary focus here should be on sustainability and, frankly, common sense. At this point, it is just a matter of time before the county agrees to an ordinance. The real question is: Will the county be a follower? Or will it help lead the way?

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Get rid of plastic bags, Santa Barbara