Founder of Coastal Playground
Think about tomorrow.

Think about tomorrow.

The Inertia

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

After a long hard-fought battle by the many residents of Huntington Beach and surrounding towns, the City Council decided with a six to one vote that they will begin the process to repeal the bag ban. While there were many solid arguments made on both sides, in my opinion the better argument came from the group supporting the ordinance.

The Surfrider Foundation was one of the more prominent proponents of this ban and provided some really valuable information, including the measurable impact they have had on the community. One of the speakers even went as far as to break down the actual dollar amount that they have saved the city of Huntington Beach, much like the 50/50® figures Coastal Playground provides to its customers. With an average of 200 to 300 volunteers per cleanup, and a frequency of every other week, they are literally saving the city of Huntington Beach thousands upon thousands of dollars, a cost that otherwise would have been at the tax payer’s expense.

And their convincing argument didn’t stop with measurable impact. They also explained that there is an impact that cannot be so easily measured: awareness.

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Sneddon

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Sneddon

Now, I know this doesn’t address the whole situation surrounding the issue of an overreaching government taking away plastic bags. However, it does shed light on the amount of money required to remove waste being generated by not only plastic bags, but also plastic bottles, styrofoam take-away containers, and cigarette butts, to name a few. At the end of the day, the bag ban saves the tax payer money — there is no question about it, and regardless of your political leaning, saving money is something everyone can get behind.

Therefore, the question is: Are we going to leave the burden of coming up with creative solutions to our children?  Or are we going to set a good example and do it now? If you ask me, I think it is up to us to find creative solutions to these problems before future generations have to pay the price.

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Sneddon

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Sneddon

For more information, be sure to read the recent entry on Coastal Playground’s environmental blog.

  • Albee Doh

    Plastic bags suck, period. They end up everywhere and are literally poisoning everything.

    However, I’ve recently found that many cities are also charging consumers $0.10 for PAPER bags. WTF?!? This does not help the cause of getting away from plastic and only makes everyone angry at the initiative to eliminate plastic.

    Sure, you can “bring your own” but for many this is just not a reasonable expectation, especially if you’re shopping for a family and have to remember to bring anywhere from ten to twenty bags.

    I am a strong advocate for environmentally sound initiatives but at the same time I am increasingly angered by how clumsy, insensitive, and unrealistic these initiatives are.

    • ryan

      How do you reconcile your first two sentences with the rest of your comment? Change and progress take a little effort. Surely it can’t be that difficult to remember “hey, I’m going grocery shopping today, better bring bags.” It quickly becomes a habit. Do you have a hard time remembering to bring your wallet?

      As for the 10 cent charge, LA’s paper bag charge is retained by stores to offset the higher cost of paper vs plastic bags, and also to provide an incentive to use reusable bags. I’d assume other paper bag surcharges are similar.

      • Albee Doh

        How many kids do you have?

        As for the rest, reference my replies above.

        The US model for environmentalism is creating more poverty than it’s alleviating. And few things are as corrosive to advancing an eco-friendly future than institutionalized poverty.

        This is also an issue of poor strategizing.

        • ryan

          Perfect is the enemy of good. The “US model” is actually a global model. Plastic bag surcharges to reduce usage are in effect in Europe (Ireland, Germany), Asia (Taiwan, Bangladesh), and Africa (S Africa, Kenya), to name a few. If Bangladesh can do it, where annual per capita income equals a few weeks of per capita income here, I think we can afford it.

          That said, there is relief built in to CA’s bag ban for our most disadvantaged. Shoppers using EBT cards (WIC, SNAP, CalFresh) are not required to pay the $0.10 fee.

          • Albee Doh

            I didn’t say anything about perfect.

            And when the average working American enjoys the same quality of living standards that citizens of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and more have access to your arguments might make more sense.

            Countries like Bangladesh have totally different social and economic structures so your comparisons there are just completely maladroit and inapplicable in this context.

            I do agree with the spirit and necessity of the movement but I often disagree with the ways in which it is implemented.

            As it stands now, an eco-friendly lifestyle is priced well out of the range of most working Americans. This is a fact and one that harms the movement and its initiatives.

          • I would love to see some evidence of this; “An eco-friendly lifestyle is priced well out of the range of most working Americans.” From what I have read, it has been proven that a more sustainable lifestyle (sustainable products, organic foods, etc.) is a cost savings and also greatly benefits our health, not the other way around like major corporations would like us to think. Granted, there might be a spike in cost at the beginning. But over time the cost difference is minimal. More recently it is being proven that being “eco-friendly” can actually be more cost effective because the prices of these products are being reduced as they become more prevalent in our society. And, not too mention when you buy “eco-friendly” there is a really good chance you are buying from a small company which also helps society as a whole. I will try to find some sources for you…

  • E. Gardener

    The plastic bag ban did wonders cleaning up the island of Maui. Plastic bags were literally strewn through the trees in some parts of the island. It reflected a very positive change.

    • Albee Doh

      Are Maui citizens getting charged for using paper bags at checkout like many are in various cities in CA?

      • E. Gardener

        I’m not 100% on that, but I’d imagine yes. Most people utilize reusable bags to solve that issue.

        • Albee Doh

          The reusable bag option isn’t always an option. I have several myself but I know that for people with families it gets cumbersome to deal with them and you have to plan ahead to remember to keep them in the car, not a realistic expectation given how most families are living increasingly harried lives with cramped schedules.

          Paper bags were free until the plastic bag ban went into effect. Smells fishy.

          • You’re right it isn’t always an option but I am willing to bet an extra .50¢ to a $1.00 for a few paper bags wouldn’t break the bank. While you suggest charging more deters people from going with the reusable option, I would argue that it encourages/reminds people to bring the reusable bag along on their next trip. Like others have mentioned, doing the right thing isn’t always convenient but it’s worth the extra effort.

          • Albee Doh

            My concern is with the “need” to attach an extra charge to every eco-initiative that comes along.

            You’re also committing the most common of sins among Americans: thinking only in terms of what you can afford to carry, not about the others who already have more than they can hold.

            How much of this country have you seen? Eco-initiatives are disproportionately burdening the segment of the population that can least afford to carry it.

            And this won’t stop at $0.10 per bag.

            Few things are more detrimental to environmental initiatives than poverty and until Americans get real with this fact and actually do something about it environmentalism will fail by its own flawed designs.

            Vanity wears many masks.

  • Rose – The Center of My Self

    Enjoyed the article, Andrew. I watched part of the meeting but missed the part where the Surfrider Foundation cited the costs. I’ll check their site to see if they’re mentioned there. You raise a good point about awareness, too. I think there’s a lot of learning still to do. I read yesterday that 70% of marine debris sinks to the sea floor; we’re not aware of what we don’t see. It behooves each of us to do a little more research, learn a little more, grow a little more, open all of our minds a little more. Always learning …

  • RB2

    I’m from Huntington, since the bag ban , I now do most of my shopping in adjacent cities: Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa…I live near adjacent borders to both. I am also one of the many who elected city officials here in H.B in the last election based upon, amongst other things, those who ran on personal freedoms(if they were smart enough to signal that) or those who were against the bag ban.

    For one thing, I have found my spontaneous needs for shopping somewhat curtailed by the H.B. bag ban. Foregoing shopping at certain times because I didnt bring recyclable bags. Who wants to be charged 10cents a bag and feel like a chump.

    Further, I need plastic bags that break down. I use the market plastic bags to wrap items that I’ve opened in my refrigerator. I use the market plastic bags over buying other plastic bags(sandwhich bags, zip lock bags, freezer/storage bags) that are use once, but dont break down. Other people used these bags to clean up pet poo when they were walking their pets…what other product was as easily accessible or more suited to the task.

    Morever, I and others felt, that the bag ban was an imposition of such a nature that those who were affected should have been able to have a citizens vote on the matter. After all, the city council took away what was once a service that was part of shopping, something I was already paying for as the markets cost of doing business and took it away. Even more so, the time spent at the checkout counter turned from something that was predictable into an awkward experience. At checkout you have your wallet or purse out, swiping your card and entering a pin, while at the same time , in some instances, being responsible for grabbing your items from the line and stowing them to your cart while the checker stands there with nothing to do. From what I understand there has been an increase of people leaving wallets, purse-wallets, and cards behind due to the inconsistency/unpredictableness of this experience.

    The plastic bag ban was an admirable thing–good intentions, but people deserve a vote not an imposition. If it was put to the people and they voted for it, thats something I would respect. But as it was, the old city council imposed this, wouldn’t even reconsider the issue and they were all voted out. Hence, the new policy with our new city council.

    • While I can understand where you are coming from in your last paragraph. I am unsure as to why you think it would help HB, or to repeal this ordinance by shopping in other cities? In my opinion, all you were really doing is hurting the business owners who are very likely your neighbors, sorry but the logic here escapes me. And, as for the dog poop and lost wallet argument, seems pretty minor in the scheme of things. Thank you for your input RB2.

      • Albee Doh

        RB2 and logic? That’s ripe.

        This isn’t the droid you’re looking for.

      • RB2

        Like I said above, I want and use the plastic bags.

        • Not sure if you were at the CC meeting, but there was overwhelming support from residents to keep the ban in place. The Council simply chose to repeal to save their asses and preserve the “conservative” vote for the next election. As for your other concerns, show me evidence that more people are losing wallets and less dog poop is being picked up and I might take them into consideration, until then, I’m sorry but they are negligible.

          • RB2


            I dont really have much to complain about, the plastic bag ban was overturned and supposedly we will have to wait for May for it to be finally realized.

            Until then, I still have the same problem of wanting to shop but my bags were left at home, not having made it back into the car as yet.

            As to evidence of lost wallets and dog poo, I dont play that internet debate game. I have a wallet and a front yard.

          • With the repeal will being finalized in May and then overturned again by the State in July, how can you justify putting this on the ballot and the funds spent to do so? Kind of seems like a waste of time and money to me…

          • RB2

            Buddy, its your religion and your zeal.

            As for me I already have a focus on religion: which is God and man created in his image.


          • Waves are my religion, and bags are the devil, lol!


  • For decades, most countries in the world have trained shoppers to
    bring their own reusable bags when they shop and nobody complains. We
    are likely the only population who makes an issue about simple attempts
    to reduce plastic waste. It is so simple, but important, to take small
    steps towards helping our environment. Does anyone complain anymore
    about being charged a recycling deposit when we buy canned or bottled
    drinks? No, most of us are now used to the idea and it succeeded by
    increasing the number of containers being recycled.

    • We couldn’t agree more! Thank you for your input Diane, cheers!

      • RB2

        “We couldn’t agree more! Thank you for your input Diane, cheers!”

        We? you have a mouse in your pocket?

  • Albee Doh

    Yup. Like putting up with moronic comments like this.

    $0.10 is where it’s starting. Where will the merry-go-round end?

    There was no charge for either before this initiative. If you don’t smell a rat it’s because you are one.

  • Chuck Allison

    On the other side, as a visitor to California. I always thought that Huntington Beach was was a dirty urban mess ….I considered that the city was making a recovery, now, back to the mess? No more of my $$

  • First, thank you for your reply. To answer your first question, yes I have. I have a small family and work hard to purchase organic & local as much as possible. I have found that the cost difference is pretty minor if you are somewhat savvy with it. Trust me, my wife works part time and I am not a rich man, but we get by. We usually shop at farmers market, use Farm Fresh To You, and grab some items from Trader Joe’s & Costco (which don’t use single use bags). Anyway, here is a good article you might want to check out ( I personally found it very useful. And secondly, I am not sure why you are under the impression that I do not think you are “sustainable” or why you are so offended by me asking for some kind of source, if you click the link in the bottom portion of my article I provide several sources to back this piece up. When people start making claims like “it’s not possible” or “not doable” when in fact people are out there doing it, I just feel like the need to chime in and ask why…

    • Albee Doh

      The majority of people pulling off eco-friendly lives have access to resources that few others do.

      The movement is gaining, yes, but it still has some serious pragmatic issues that need wrangling.

      And you really should see the rest of the country to get a better idea of just how monumental a task is at hand. We have it better in CA than most when it comes to this dialogue.

      But getting back to the original topic, charging for paper bags is just not a good idea. Like I said, just spread it around by adding it into the overall costs of shopping. No one would notice and it would generate the ire of the public. The charge is just another cheap talking point for Fox pundits as well, and that’s not something they need to be given more of.

  • Stopfoodtax smith

    You know you can still use the banned plastic bag. You just have to buy it by the box. You can use anything you want as long as you buy it. The store will even sell you a thicker plastic bag or paper. This doesn’t reduce plastic. People just buy thicker plastic to line their bins and pick up dog poo, along with other things that the free bag used to do. The plastic is not a one use bag. It’s reusable, recyclable and sanitary.
    The other option is the reusable bag that comes with its own set of problems. Most people admit to never washing them. People forget them and they do pile up and go to landfill. You have to use it at least 131 times to equal one plastic bag. I have not been able to get mine to go past a few washes. So into the landfill it goes. So what is this for. Profit, in not giving a bag, the fee and sales of prepackaged plastic along with reusable bags. The stores don’t even have to take the blame, and just pass that off to the government.

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