As a Californian, voting in this year’s election is incredibly time-consuming. Besides the tumultuous presidential race and several important local issues, we have 17 state ballot measures, including a few that appear to duplicate each other. Two of them, Propositions 65 and 67, concerning plastic bags and the health of our oceans, are very difficult to sort out.
We emailed our friend Eva Holman of the Surfrider Foundation to get the scoop. “Prop 67 is the measure that we are focused in on,” she wrote. “When this passes it will uphold the bag ban previously put in place by Governor Brown in 2014 to go into effect in July of 2015—SB270—and all cities and counties in California will participate in the bag ban.” According to Holman, Prop 65 is mainly funded by out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers and contains deceptive language that seems intended to confuse voters. “To support a reduction in plastic pollution on our local beaches, in the ocean and in waterways, we are asking voters to vote YES on 67 and NO on 65.”
Straight-forward, right? Makes voting easier! But you still might be asking questions, such as, my city already has a plastic bag ban, why do we need a statewide one? “Even with all of the ordinances already in place, the amount of plastic bag and plastic bag particles we are finding in stormwater runoff has only reduced by one-third,” Holman explains. “When this statewide ban passes we will see a greater reduction in plastic bag pollution and plastic bag pollution’s horrible impact on wildlife. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for their favorite treat—jellyfish—eat them and get sick and sometimes die. Plastic bags are found in the stomachs of whales. They are seriously harming marine life.”
Besides supporting Prop 67 and plastic bag bans across the country, Surfrider works tirelessly to stop plastic at the source, before it enters the ocean. “These activities not only clean up the beach but help us determine what some of the real pollution problems are in our community,” Holman says. “Tiny foam pieces, cigarette butts, plastic straws, plastic bags, water bottles and caps—these are all, sadly, very common items to pick up on our local beaches. All of them can harm wildlife and water quality. We work with the community to find solutions and help people and businesses change their habits around purchasing and using single-use plastics.”
So what can you do, besides voting yes on 67 and no on 65? “BYOB! Bring your own bag!” Holman urges. “Paper bags are really unnecessary if we all remember to use our own bags from home. From an ocean environmentalist perspective, yes, a paper bag will do little harm in a marine environment. From a tree's perspective, please remember to bring your own bag!”
Want more information? Our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have a funny video starring Makana, a beautiful Laysan albatross, about Prop 67. And Academy youth have just finished a video about solutions to plastics in the ocean that you can view here.