Archived entries for News

Plastic Bags: Too Wasteful to Recycle?

Upon a recent trip to southern California, I was struck by these “recycling stations”, mandated and paid for from a recycling bill backed by the American Chemistry Council. The so called “recycling stations” are more like an ad for the plastic industry, neatly stating above the cans “Plastics. Too Valuable to Waste”. Really? Or maybe it should be something to the effect of “Plastics (especially bags): too wasteful to value. I’m curious how that recycling bill is fairing for California litter, stormdrains, beaches and the nearshore ocean animals. And just today, news comes out that after plastic industry demands for a bag recycling bill instead of a bag ban bill, they still can’t support reaching the 20% recycling rate in the first year. This just shows the hypocrisy of the plastic bag industry. They claim a ban isn’t needed because bags can be recycled, but when legislators cater to their demands (thanks to out-of-state campaign donations and lobbying) they oppose that too! Fact is, there’s a reason that 95% of plastic bags aren’t recycled – there’s no real market and its cheaper for the industry to produce billions of new ones each year. The bottom line is that a bag ban will not only protect the environment, it will save money for both businesses and consumers. If that wasn’t true, the NW Grocers Assoc. never would have supported the original bill (SB 536) which continues to be opposed by the (out of state) plastics lobby.

The plastic industry has continually opposed a ban relying on the messaging that recycling is the answer and they’d be interested in a recycling bill. That bluff has been called and the plastic industry is showing their cards now that recycling is not the answer. Well played plastic-hearted on the million dollar scare tactics, campaigning and recycling messaging, but you’ve got an empty hand now – clearly you can’t recycle your way out of this problem.

The simple points on recycling:

  • Recycling is not an effective solution to the environmental problem of plastic pollution. An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million sea birds die every year after ingesting or being tangled in plastics.
  • Recycling rates can increase, but at the same time the number of plastic bags consumed can increase.
  • Recycling might make us feel good, but it’s a failure to Reduce our consumption, and to Reuse alternative solutions.
  • Where these are being recycled is a key thing, if they are still being shipped over to China or back to Indiana, then the overall carbon footprint is huge. Learn more about that here!
  • Incinerating plastic bags for electricity is not recycling.
  • Oregonians are already confused and many unaware that you can’t put plastic bags into your curbside, passing this could lead to an increase of people putting them into their curbside and greater economic impacts to Oregon recyclers and material recovery facilities over the next few years.

We know enough right now about the very real economic and environmental impacts of plastic bags to Oregon businesses and the health of our ecosystems to take action, why wait for 2-3 years before implementing a ban.

Global Expedition to Study Marine Plastic Pollution in Ocean Gyres Ends in South Pacific

Leave it to the pioneering researchers with 5 Gyres Institute, they’re doing it again, completing their fifth expedition through all five subtropical gyres with another scheduled expedition coming soon. This completes the most extensive study of marine plastic pollution that has ever been undertaken, 2 years and over 25,000 miles across the worlds oceans. Most recently they collected data from the South Pacific Gyre where scarce data previously existed on plastic pollution. 

“We had no idea what to expect, though we knew that the South Pacific Gyre has a more dense accumulation zone than the other gyres”, explained Anna Cummins, who with Marcus Eriksen, PhD, co-founded The 5 Gyres Institute in 2009. Much of the media in the past has made this issue difficult to understand and further communicate, making analogies to such gyres as “islands” to try and convey the large amount of plastic debris that accumulates in these areas. Better described as a “soup”, far less dense than an “island of plastic”, this type of pollution is extensive in the water column of subtropical gyres – and, poses much more of a threat than a single dense mass. “We found little plastic until we approached the center of the gyre, where we suddenly began seeing more large and small plastic fragments floating past the hull of our vessel.”

Read the full press release by clicking on the link below and learn more about 5 Gyres at

Plastic found in all 5 Gyres_Press release

Send Surfrider PDX Chair to Sea – Vote today!

Surfrider’s Portland Chapter Chair, Nastassja Pace, has been volunteering and advocating for awareness on the marine plastic pollution for years. She has been tirelessly fighting for the campaign – BAN the BAG – to ban single-use plastic bags in Oregon, taught thousands of children about re-use and recycling practices and makes art depicting the plastic pollution problem plaguing the worlds’ oceans.

Right now, Nastassja has the opportunity of a lifetime — to join 5Gyres, scientists and activists aboard Sea Dragon on a 10 day sailing trip in the South Pacific Gyre to study and document marine plastic debris.

Please help Nastassja win the Chaco Wave of Change Art Contest by voting for her plastic wave painting today! Simply click on the link here and had her name, Nastassja Pace, to the comments section. And pass the link along. Thank you!

Help Promote the PDX Plastic Bag City Ordinance

Fantastic turnout last week at our rally! Thanks to all your hard work. But now we need a little extra help on making sure that Portland bans plastic bags. Read our action alert below.


Thanks to your action, organizing and all the work over the years we’ve finally got a draft ordinance open for public comment to Ban the Bag in Portland! Mayor Sam Adams announced the release of the ordinance last Wednesday at the Day of Action thanks to all of your work, and it wouldn’t have happened without the talented work of many. We have 5 days to comment and we need all the support we can get to push this through. Now’s a critical time as final decision making approaches and here’s a couple of simple ways for you to help us pass this environmental victory!

By now we hope you have participated in the Petition and Action Alert.

Now, more than ever, we need you to help submit favorable comments to the Mayor’s Draft Ordinance!

Continue reading…

Raise Your Voice Against Plastic!

Photo by RM Photo,

Thanks to everyone that came out and supported the cause at this morning’s rally. We’re already seeing the event covered in the media, and we need your help in commenting on these blogs to keep our momentum going. Talk about how banning bags is good for business, and why you personally want a single-use plastic bag ban. Every comment helps; we need the entire Portland community to know how much support there is behind this issue.

Portland Council Considering Plastic Bag Ban on Fox 12 (on this post you can vote on the poll “Should plastic bags be banned in Portland?”)

Mayor Promises to Act on Banning Plastic Bags on The Portland Mercury

Portland Mayor Sam Adams Says City, Too, Will Ban Plastic Grocery Bags on Oregon Live

Oregon Lawmakers Want Plastic Bag Ban on KGW 8

Surprise! Your Reusable Bag Could Be Dirty

Much like advocates of bottled water, there are some pretty ridiculous arguments out there from plastic bags proponents. The most recent? The fact that, *shock*, reusable bags get dirty. Who knew??

From the LA Times:

Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University queried shoppers headed into grocery stores in California and Arizona, asking them if they wash those reusable bags. The researchers were likely met with a lot of blank looks. Most shoppers — 97%, in fact — reported that they do not regularly, if ever, wash the bags.

The post goes on to say:

The study, funded by the American Chemistry Council, is being offered up as context in discussions about a California bill, AB 1998, that would ban single-use plastic bags, which — it must be acknowledged — do tend to have little potential for bacterial contamination.

Well, no surprise there. The American Chemistry Council is NOT and independent group of scientists, if that’s what anyone thinks. The American Chemistry Council is a professional organization and lobbying group for the plastics industry.

Think of it this way: do you ever take your lunch to work in a tupperware? After you eat out of it, do you take it home and stock it full of the next day’s meal? No. You’re smart and wash it out. Same goes for reusable bags. Use some common sense and give them a good cleaning once in awhile. Sure is easier than cleaning up a whole ocean of plastic pollution now isn’t it?

Image: studiotamar

Los Angeles Times Says Ban the Bag!

Great Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times today that sums up the state’s proposed plastic bag ban — which has already been passed by the Assembly.

“This is the easiest and most effective step Californians can take toward cleaning up plastics pollution.”

Check out the full article here.

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