Courage and conviction

City Council’s plastic-bag-restricting ordinance should be commended

One of the few positive outgrowths of the desperate search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is new worldwide awareness of a problem the Chico City Council has been wrestling with recently: plastic garbage.

For days search teams kept finding what they thought were pieces of the airplane floating on the water, only to discover that they were floating garbage.

Around the world, people eager for news of the lost flight learned, coincidentally, that the world’s oceans were full of plastic debris, most of it in the form of single-use products such as bottles, bags and wrappers. A recent UCLA report estimates that 20 million tons of plastic waste enters the oceans every year, most of it collecting in five major sea-current gyres that are commonly referred to as “garbage patches” and are as large as the state of Texas.

Over time, this plastic breaks down into smaller pieces that fish, sea turtles and sea birds mistake for food. Plastic bags are especially dangerous to sea turtles, which often mistake them for jellyfish (i.e., food).

That’s why the City Council’s decision to again seek to decrease the number of plastic bags being used in Chico is a good one. The state Legislature has been trying for three years to pass a similar measure, so far unsuccessfully. This year it’s back with a measure (Senate Bill 270) that would go into effect next year. A majority of Chico’s council members has decided not to wait any longer for the state to act and to join more than 100 other California municipalities with such bans, including the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose.

In doing so, they faced down some harsh but vapid criticism that they were wasting council time. We salute Councilmembers Randall Stone, Tami Ritter and Ann Schwab and Mayor Scott Gruendl for having the courage to back their convictions.