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Last week, the Goleta City Council approved a maximum contribution of $8,000 to jointly fund a projected $70,000 environmental impact report investigating the effects of plastic bag use.
The EIR will be carried out by the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON), which has already received pledged donations from the cities and counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura along with the city of Port Hueneme. The city of Santa Barbara drafted a model ordinance which plans to ban plastic bags in stores that sell groceries or have a pharmacy and occupy more than 10,000 square feet. The draft also applies to liquor stores that carry a short line of groceries.
According to Goleta City Council member and former Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett, the results of the report will ultimately decide whether plastic bags will be banned in the city. Bennett said the city of Santa Barbara will also apply the new data to potentially modify the proposed ordinance.
“The EIR process will take about nine months and then it will be brought back to respective participants, and we will be reviewing it and making our comments on the draft that is complete,” Bennett said. “We’ll have to see how it all comes together. I wouldn’t want to speculate at this point and I think everyone is trying to keep an open mind and get their questions answered.”
Plastic bag bans have gone into effect in many California cities such as San Francisco, Long Beach and West Hollywood.
UCSB Director of the Plastic Pollution Coalition Erica Aguilera said the harmful impact of plastic bag use directly affects our campus and its neighboring regions.
“We live in a community directly adjacent to the coast, and plastic bags and are a huge contributor to marine pollution; they have contributed to the death of hundreds of thousands of marine animals,” Aguilera said.
According to Aguilera, the transportation of plastic to other cities produces large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions while the bags themselves also present a challenge to the recycling process.
“Plastic bags are a bit more difficult to recycle,” Aguilera said. “It’s also dangerous for the workers who run the machines which recycle them.”
Aguilera said banning plastic bags would have other positive benefits for the city beside the obvious environmental aid.
“It also costs a lot of money to clean up plastic bags from our creeks; that money could be reallocated to different city programs that could enhance our environment, education or something like that,” Aguilera said.
Fourth-year environmental studies major Sam White said he admires the proactive steps Goleta has taken regarding such a controversial issue.
“I’m also glad that they’re conducting research before implementing any radical policies, because it is important to know that the measure will actually make a difference, as obvious as it may seem,” White said in an email. “In my opinion, it just makes sense to eliminate the use of plastic bags and I don’t see any negatives associated with the idea.”