By Samantha Aguirre

College student, age 23

A trip to the corner store for a bag of chips and an AriZona Iced Tea rings up as $2.00, but it has a higher price on the environment than you think. With almost every purchase we make, from new shoes at the Arden Fair Mall to a trip to Safeway to buy groceries, we use more and more of the silent killers who are polluting our air and water, killing marine animals, and costing our city money; plastic shopping bags.

The average Californian goes through an average of a whopping 550 single-use plastic bags a year according the Central Coast Recycling Media Coalition (CCRMC). A plastic shopping bag can take upwards of 1,000 years to decompose. Less than 5 percent of the alarming 100 billion plastic grocery bags used in the United States per year are recycled. The remaining billions of plastic bags end up in the trash, landfills, our streets, parks, oceans and rivers.plastic bags

In landfills, oceans and rivers, the plastic bags are deprived of air and light from the sun dissolves them into toxic polymer particles. These toxic particles contaminate our air, soil, and waterways. In Sacramento, bags littered on the streets go into storm drains, which end up in the Sacramento and American Rivers and lead to the ocean. Plastic bags also kill countless bird and marine animals that eat the plastic mistaking it for food, the bags block the animal’s digestive tract causing them to starve.

Sacramento is joining to fight to ban plastic bags. Sacramento City council members Steve Cohn and Kevin McCarty have introduced an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags at Target, Walmart, and other major grocery and drugstore chains. If the Reusable Bag Ordinance is passed, Sacramento will join the 72 California cities that have banned plastic bags such as San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles. In these cities, retailers no longer use plastic shopping bags but rather paper bags, and charge customers $.05 to $.10 per bag. This charge is an incentive for customers to bring their own bags from home.

Environment California, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization that has been organizing in Sacramento in support of the plastic-bag ban ordinance, and boasts a powerful message on their campaign website; “Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our oceans for hundreds of years.”

Remembering to bring a reusable bag or backpack with you on your next shopping trip, or opting for no plastic bag when taking leftovers home from a restaurant, is a small price to pay to protect our environment and create a better future for generations to come.

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