Plastic (Not) Fantastic


By Aaron Heier

Whether lining trashcans, toting lunch or scooping up after Fido, the plastic bags that transport nearly every retail purchase have long proven their convenience, becoming a part of life most people take for granted.

But in Solana Beach, the days of single-use plastic bags may be numbered as the city mulls becoming the ?rst in San Diego County to ban their use.

Led by Mayor Lesa Heebner, the Solana Beach City Council is preparing an ordinance that, if approved, would permanently ban the bags, forcing shoppers to use more environmentally friendly alternatives like paper or reusable cloth bags when patronizing the city’s 200 retailers.

“As a community committed to sustainability, banning plastic bags has been on our radar for quite some time,” says Mayor Heebner, pointing out that residents have raised the issue frequently during City Council meetings.

Aside from their unsightly tendency to get stuck in fences and caught in tree branches, single-use, high-density polyethylene plastic bags take more than a decade (and up to 500 years, by some estimates) to decompose, and add thousands of tons of debris to land?lls. According to Californians Against Waste, state residents discard approximately 400 plastic bags per second, or 12 billion annually.

Of special concern to Solana Beach is that many bags drift to coastal waters, where they litter shorelines or break down into small pieces of toxic “food” mistakenly consumed by marine life and other animals.

“We are a beach city sited between two lagoons,” says Heebner. “We have seen the damage to our waterways and wildlife from plastic bags.”

Solana Beach city of?cials have said that no de?nitive timeline is set for instituting the ban, but the ordinance will most likely come to the City Council for review and approval in early 2012. They also acknowledge that getting people to change their bag habits may be tough.

“We believe there are viable alternatives,” Mayor Heebner says. “Our desire is to remove plastic bags as much as we can from our environment.”