Southern California environment news and trends

San Francisco sets sights on plastic water bottle reduction

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klearchos/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Bottled water

In 2007, San Francisco made history as the first American city to ban single-use plastic bags. Now, city officials are investigating ways to reduce plastic water bottles.

According to the Associated Press, one of the proposals being considered is an ordinance requiring new and renovated buildings with water fountains to also install bottle-filling taps to encourage reusable containers instead of plastic bottles. The upgrades to existing water fountains would run about $750.

“This is the appropriate next step to make it easier for San Franciscans to get out of the bad habit of using environmentally wasteful plastic water bottles and into the good habit of using reusable water containers,” said David Chiu, the Board of Supervisors President who's behind the bill. He offers it up as a best-case scenario as compared to more extreme measures, like a plastic bottle tax or outright ban, akin to the plastic bag. Ultimately, Chiu says the move is meant to emphasis the quality of San Francisco tap water.

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San Mateo County moves closer to single-use plastic bag ban

Glendale Considers Ban On Plastic Bags

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In the ongoing movement to make single-use plastic bags a thing of the past, the city of Menlo Park is just one of the latest to consider banning them outright. According to the Patch, Menlo Park is among 24 cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties currently considering such a plastic bag ban, with San Mateo County releasing a draft Environmental Impact Report on June 22. Like many other plastic bag ban proposals, bags used for produce and meat would not be affected.

“I did not see any surprises in the draft EIR, and the one thing we need to keep in mind that this is by no means final. We’re still in the draft stage,” said Dean Peterson, the Environmental Health Director of San Mateo County by phone. “Based on the results, there were a number of impacts that would be beneficial, and they’ll definitely aid in getting the ban through.”

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LA city council's vote on a bag ban: forward movement, yes. Historic? Not quite

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Even in a small market like Grocery Warehouse, LA sanitation workers are ready to talk to people in 5 languages, a sign of the city's diversity.

Over at the L.A. Times, they’re hailing a step that L.A. City Council took toward banning plastic bags as historic. Over here, we’re not. It seems to be worth explaining why.

First, a bit of history. Richard Alarcon joked today at a press conference before the council meeting: “What took so long?” He made that joke because the idea of a bag ban in L.A. first got kicked around seriously four years ago, and he and then-councilwoman Janice Hahn did a lot of the kicking.

Now, let’s get to why this isn’t historic.

The City of Los Angeles did not pass the first bag ban in the state. That honor goes to the hometown of my favorite baseball team, and their ban was actually the first in the country. San Francisco is actually in a second phase of their ordinance.

The City of Los Angeles did not defend its environmental impact report justifying a bag ban all the way to the state Supreme Court. That honor goes to Manhattan Beach, which argued and won the case last year.

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Hawaii first US state to ban plastic bags

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David McNew/Getty Images

As the war to end the use of plastic bags at retail POS (point of sale) rages on in cities across California (and America), the most recent of the 50 states, Hawaii, has become the first in the country to outlaw plastic bags outright.

The statewide ban came as a result of Honolulu, the last holdout among Hawaii’s cities and counties, banning usage of the bags earlier this month.

As reported by the Honolulu Star Advisor, the city’s Mayor Peter Carlisle signed off on the plastic bag ban on May 10 after City Council approved it by a margin of 7 -1 late last month. The Honolulu ban goes into effect on July 1, 2015.

But according to Treehugger, loopholes in the bill render it less than 100 percent effective. Running down the laundry list of exemptions cited by KHON 2, plastic bags can still be used to package loose items (produce, grains, coffee, etc.), prepared foods, frozen foods, flowers and even prescriptions.

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California updates environmental curriculum over plastic bag chapter

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evelynishere/Flickr CC

A pile of plastic bags await recycling.

The current war being waged regarding single-use plastic bags goes beyond just how customers tote their wares out of restaurants and retail stores. It was discovered last year that the American Chemical Council had successfully lobbied California school officials to include positive messages about such plastic bags in the state’s environmental curriculum.

As reported by California Watch, the California Environmental Protection Agency has been allowed to rewrite the curriculum, which no longer includes a section entitled “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags” and has been updated with current recycling statistics.

"Our concern always with the curriculum was to ensure integrity and accuracy," explained Bryan Ehlers, the California EPA’s assistant secretary for education and quality programs to California Watch. "We went back and looked at the whole unit and really picked through it with a fine-tooth comb."

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