REGION:

Ventura County, California

Updates from Ventura County Chapter—Protecting our local ocean and beaches from source to surf
May 21, 2014

Council Fails to Come Through on the Reusable Bag Ordinance (5/19)

Monday night, Ventura City Council made the decision to take no action on the proposed reusable bag ordinance. Despite the negative effects that disposable plastics have on the environment and the aesthetics of Ventura, despite overwhelming community support on the issue, and despite the hours of staff time that have been spent on editing and amending the ordinance and on outreach, Andrews, Tracy, and Monahan voted no on the proposed ordinance.

As most of us have heard time and again, single-use plastics have no place in our society because of their negative environmental impact, especially on our oceans. Plastics do not biodegrade. In the ocean, they photodegrade, meaning they break down into smaller and smaller pieces but never fully break down. These small particles of plastic are mistaken for food and work their way up the food chain.  This is not only a problem with digestion and suffocation, but also with bioaccumulation. Plastics attract toxins in the environment, some of which have been banned on land but still remain in the wild (i.e. DDT). These toxins work their way up the food chain with the synthetic particles. At the top of the food chain, toxins are concentrated and can cause health problems to those who ingest them. Doesn’t that make you want some sushi?

In addition, plastic bags and other plastic litter are an eye sore to residents and visitors in Ventura. Bags float along in the wind (see link for funny mockumentary) and stick in trees and against fences. Even bags that are thrown in the trash (bags are not recyclable) can sometimes fly out and end up in the environment. A source reduction such as a bag ordinance would help to eliminate this waste and litter.

Moreover, there is a large community support for the bag ordinance. Over the past couple of years, Surfrider has gathered petition signatures in support of the bag ordinance. We have collected over 1,000 signatures at community events and meetings! Also, we flooded the council room Monday night with over 45 supporters wearing blue (or bags). (This Many) supporters filled out speaker cards and addressed council and many others submitted comment cards. Opposition consisted of only 3 individuals (and 3 council members).  Supporters included Surfrider members, the Sierra Club, the CA Grocers Association, 4th grade students from ATLAS elementary, a middle schooler from Cabrillo, a teen from a YMCA leadership organization (representing 300 “likes” from teens throughout the country), teachers, a local business owner, a former mayor, outdoor enthusiasts, and community members from all walks of life.

City staff has spent many hours on modifying the ordinance for Ventura and outreaching to the community and businesses. In only a couple of months, they were able to speak with over 60 smaller businesses that would be affected by the ban. If council members are worried about city spending, staff time should be taken into account.

So why did they vote no?

Neal Andrews: He did not feel that it was right to have a 10 cent charge for paper bags. This money would go to the grocery stores and they would profit off the ordinance.

Surfrider’s take: The point of the charge on paper is to create a disincentive for shoppers. If you have to pay 10 cents per bag, you will remember to bring your own bags. In other jurisdictions with ordinances, there was a large reduction in the use of both plastic AND paper bags.

Mike Tracy: He has “come full circle on the issue”. He believes that the cost of the ordinance is worth waiting to see what will happen at the statewide level.

Surfrider’s take:  We cannot rely on the state to take action on the issue. A statewide bag ban has failed four times so far. Even if it were to pass, it would still take more time for implementation than if we were to pass in it Ventura now. Each month that we wait, about 3.6 million bags are used in Ventura. This is not acceptable. As for the money that will be spent for the ordinance: City staff estimated that the ordinance would cost about $1,000/ month for the first two years for outreach and implementation and then $1,000/year after that. However, this money would be spent whether there was a bag ordinance or not. Here’s a couple quotes from a former city council member and a knowledgeable Surfrider member to further explain it:

“Now about the money the $24,000, that is not “new money” but money that is spent now for staff to go out and educate the community on waste and recycling.  All that would happen if the ordinance was enacted is that outreach would shift from focusing on the schools where the program has been going on for years to outreach to the retail sector of our community. No cost saving by not passing ordinance, in fact, completely the opposite as the City is now still susceptible to TMDL scrutiny which means fines, etc. ”

” As for the $24,000, it all would come out of “AB939” funds. This is non-general fund monies already collected on residential and commercial trash bills. It would result in the 2 year deferral of long term upgrades and maintenance to Gold Coast. Bottom line is that it would not involve the expenditure of new funds. I am not sure if Tracy did not understand this or if he was using it to justify his reluctance to move forward.”

Jim Monahan: He piggybacked off Tracy’s response. He also wants to wait to see what the state will do instead of “spending the money” on the ordinance.

To watch the entire video of the council meeting, check out the city website.

Despite the disappointment of Monday night’s decision, we must stay positive and push forward. Here’s what we can do as we move forward:

Support the statewide ban!

Please support the statewide bill Sb27o here!

Contact your Ventura City Council members to let them know how you feel about their decision Monday night:  council@cityofventura.net

and Stay tuned! Sign up on our newsletter or contact us directly to learn more: VenturaRAP@gmail.com

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