Chico, CA – The City Council voted 5-2 to draft an ordinance to control plastic bag pollution in Chico. Mayor Mary Goloff, Vice-Mayor Scott Gruendl, and Councilmembers Ann Schwab, Randall Stone, and Tami Ritter voted in favor, with Councilmembers Sean Morgan and Mark Sorensen opposed. The vote came after lively public comment in which several Chico residents spoke out in support of a plastic bag ban.
“This important step forward for Chico shows once again that local communities can achieve lasting victories for ocean and environmental health,” said Nathan Weaver of Environment California. “We continue to build more and more momentum to keep plastic out of the Pacific and our rivers, creeks, and streams. Every week cities, town, counties and others are working to ban single use plastic bags, Styrofoam food packaging, and other unnecessary throwaway plastics polluting our oceans.”
Chico had originally voted to draft a bag ordinance in September, but revisited the issue after changes in California law made local plastic bag fees possible alongside bans.
Over 50 cities and counties in California have voted to ban single-use plastic bags in recent years. Plastic bags are a direct threat to wildlife, like the pacific leatherback sea turtles that mistake the bags for jellyfish. Plastic bags are a major source of marine plastic pollution and one of the most common beach litter items, based on annual cleanups.
Next, the City Attorney will draft an ordinance to restrict throwaway plastic shopping bags in Chico based on criteria set by the City Council. Among other guidelines, the draft ordinance must target single-use carryout bags provided at the point of sale by large grocers, convenience food stores, pharmacies, and other large retailers. The draft would specify standards for reusable bags and would allow stores to distribute recyclable paper bags for a minimum ten cent fee. Once drafted by the City Attorney, City Council members will review the proposed ordinance and must vote again to enact it.
“Environment California applauds the City Council’s commitment to protecting our environment from plastic bag pollution,” said Weaver. “We look forward to the councilmembers’ final vote with great anticipation.”
About plastic bag pollution
Vast amounts of plastic litter have accumulated in the Pacific Ocean, threatening fish, birds, and other wildlife that too frequently mistakes floating plastic for food. This plastic soup will never bio-degrade. At best, it brittles in the sun, breaking into flakes and scraps that can be swallowed by smaller animals.
Plastic bags are a major source of marine plastic pollution and a direct threat to wildlife. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, filling their stomachs with indigestible blockage that can eventually starve the animal to death. Birds and fish can become tangled in plastic, impeding their ability, to feed or escape predators. As plastic bags breaks down at sea, they add to the soup of floating fragments swallowed by birds, fish, and filter feeding organisms.
Plastic bags are one of the most common garbage items found in annual beach cleanups by Ocean Conservancy and other groups. Catch basin cleanouts along the Los Angeles River have found that plastic bags and film made up 43 percent of litter collected in some instances, according to a report prepared for the California Coastal Commission.