Capitola, CA – The City Council voted unanimously tonight to bar retail stores from distributing single-use plastic bags within city limits. The vote came after lengthy comment from residents and activists in enthusiastic support of the ban.
“This important step forward for Capitola 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. 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.”
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 them for jellyfish, and they are a major source of marine plastic pollution.
The new ordinance will take effect in three months of final passage, and would not apply to restaurants. Violators will be warned upon their first offense. Repeat offenders will be fined between $100 and $200 upon a second offense and $500 for each violation thereafter.
The City Council also voted to adopt a 25 cent fee for each paper bag that a shopper requests. All retail establishments must collect the fee at the point of sale. The fee will not apply to shoppers participating in the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children; the State Department of Social Services Food Stamp program, or other government subsidized purchase programs for low income residents.
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, a favorite food. The plastic fills 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, according to a report prepared for the California Coastal Commission.