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Report on the Adopt-A-Highway Litter Round-up Saturday, April 14 - Plastic Bag Bans Revisited


Mark your calendar: Saturday, May 12, 2018 is the next Adopt-A-Highway Litter Pickup on Highway 280. JUST THE FACTS: Date: Saturday, April 14, 2018. Location: Highway 280 NB between Meridian Avenue and Saratoga Avenue, and The Alameda interchange at Highway 880 NB. Time: About 2.5 hours – 9:30 AM -12:30 PM. Participants: 6 volunteers. Sabine and I were joined by veteran volunteers Crista, Charlie, Richard, and Diane. What we collected: 26 total bags, 2 of which were recyclable aluminum cans, glass bottles and plastic bottles. Any cash? Just 10¢. Diane found a dime. Oddities along with the trash: ( ▸ Two Wells Fargo Guard Services clothing patches ▸ A really cute baby slipper. Unfortunately, we only found one of them. ▸ Two Christmas ornaments. I believe these are the first we have ever found. ▸ A small carry-on bag with a Bolvaint label, empty, in great condition. I found bags like this one selling on for $200 and up. No tags, so it probably wasn’t shoplifted. Stolen? ▸ A 2017 tax return for a man living not far from 280 and Meridian where it was found. We called the tax preparers to see if we should shred it (because it’s just a copy). I suppose I can drop it by his house... ▸ A few pages of hand-written sheet music, an arrangement of a Bach fugue. Judging from the notes in red on the last page, it might have been a class assignment, with comments from the teacher. IT’S BAAACK! Remember that encampment on the stretch of northbound 280 between 880 and the Winchester on-ramp that we cleaned last month? It has a new occupant who appears to have moved in this past week. Not too much debris below it yet, but if he’s typical of others who live along the freeway, there will be a debris field below it very soon. MOROCCO BANNED PLASTIC BAGS This is actually old news, since the ban went into effect in July of 2016. According to the article I read, Morocco was second-largest plastic bag consumer after the United States, using about three billion plastic bags a year, and the population of Morocco is only about 35 million. During the year after the ban in Morocco went into effect, a black market developed (of course) but more than 421 tons of plastic bags, 70 manufacturing machines and 16 vehicles were seized, and 55 people were arrested. While doing this internet search myself (type in “plastic bag bans”), I came across a list of countries that have banned or taxed plastic bags. Start with Africa: 11 countries have bans on plastic bags, including Morocco, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Brazil has a ban on plastic bags. Italy bans plastic bags that are not biodegradable. Mexico fines stores that give out plastic bags to customers. Lots of countries have imposed heavy fees for using plastic bags. Where a fee is charged instead of an outright ban, usage has dropped. In Denmark, for example, usage dropped by 50% when a fee was charged. In Ireland, where a similar fee was set, usage dropped by 90%. China banned thin plastic bags and started charging for thick ones, which resulted in a 65% drop in usage. Meanwhile is several states in the United States – Arizona, Missouri, Idaho, Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin – the state legislatures (need I add Republican) have passed bills that prohibit local plastic bag bans! The measures prohibit local governments from “regulating the use of boxes, bottles and containers used for transporting merchandise to or from a business,” all under the guise of protecting individual rights, limiting government interference in the lives of citizens, and not micro-managing every decision of every consumer. Wow! (Did you hear my jaw drop?) Here in California, where we did finally pass a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, we are making noticeable progress. Compared to 2010, plastic bag litter has dropped by around 70%. Plastic bags now account for less than 1.5 percent of all litter, rather than nearly 10 percent. I know our Adopt-A-Highway teams used to find upwards of 100 bags EVERY month before the ban. Now we rarely find them, though we occasionally find the thicker department store bags. Now, if we could just tackle those pesky plastic bottles – which STILL make up 5-6% of the litter collected? REMINDER: THE NEXT TRASH PICKUP WILL BE SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2018. Dates in the future: June 9 and July 7 Feel free to pass these reports along to friends and invite them to join the clean-up brigade next month! We are always looking for new volunteers. Loui


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