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New York City, Get Ready for the Plastic Bag Fee

Image source: LA Times

Get your reusable bags ready because a plastic bag fee is likely coming to New York City. The fee is part of an effort to prevent plastic bags from polluting our environment. Large corporations, politicians, and everyday shoppers, like you and me, have resisted proposals to charge shoppers for plastic bags (NY Times, 2017). But it is important to learn about why this is beneficial for the environment. We will see that it is not as catastrophic as we think.

Plastic bags are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by the year 2050 and 80% of that plastic was originally “land-based trash” (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2). As if that’s not motivating enough, the economics behind this say that businesses spend up to $4 billion each year on purchasing plastic bags. That’s along with recyclable handling recovery facilities spending amounts ranging from $250K to $750K in maintenance and cleaning due to plastic bags (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2).

The bill to charge 5 cents per plastic bag was originally introduced by City Council in 2014. Ongoing development between the City Council, the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, and the Mayor, included several hearings, amendments, and approvals. It was finally passed over two years later on June 5, 2016.

The law requiring a fee of 5 cents per bag was supported by our City’s Council members as well as our Mayor, Bill de Blasio, so what could possibly go wrong? The plastic bag fee was killed before it even launched. (NY Times, 2017). The new law was rescinded by Governor Andrew Cuomo when he signed a bill that killed the fee immediately. He felt it was “deeply flawed” as it allowed business owners to keep the 5 cents which could amount to $100 million in profits (McKinley, 2017).

EF44F91D-6B4B-413C-B07D-A6870F87F395 Image source: NY Post

Not only did Cuomo insist on revamping the law, but he suggested making the plastic bag fee statewide. Cuomo promises direction, giving some hope to environmentalists and the City Council members who say they felt defeated by state government and “characterized the move as a classic case of Albany’s overreach” (McKinley, 2017).

But what do shoppers think of the plastic bag fee? I interviewed a frequent shopper about the potential statewide legislation. She expressed to me that she did majority of the food shopping in her household and always used plastic bags to take home. When I asked her about a plastic bag fee of 5 cents per bag she stated, “I feel the plastic bag fee should be imposed. It would push more people to start using reusable bags.” We spoke on how the legislation would prevent plastic pollution and she completely supported the cause. A much more optimistic shopper than I had anticipated, Ms. Alamo also was ready to make the switch to reusable bags exclusively.

A consumer’s opinion on the plastic bag fee depends on his or her environmental consciousness. Voters need to understand why decisions are being made and how they actually affect them—without that there may always be a pushback (NY Times, 2017).

The questions that consumers need to be answered include:
• What’s wrong with single-use plastic?
• How are plastic bags affecting the environment?
• How will the plastic bag fee help?

The New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report: An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags covers all of these questions in detail. It provides information for each legislation option, giving business owners choices with how to apply the plastic bag fee including pros and cons. The legislative options also explore the tedious details with strengthening existing recycling, enforcing manufacturer responsibility, bag fees, etc.

Image source: NYC Plastic Bag Report

What’s wrong with single-use plastic and how are plastic bags affecting the environment? The report answers exactly that, plastic bags are already creating a number of problems we can see for ourselves today (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2). They are made from fossil fuels from being manufacturing to being distributed to businesses. They are found littered on land, in small waterways, and in large bodies of water. Plastic pollution affects wildlife by disturbing natural habitats and life cycle events. This can be from littering or due to chemicals leeching out from the plastic (NYSPBTF Report, 2018: 2).

With considering that heavy load of information, we need to start thinking like conscious consumers. But people are afraid of what could be the negative results from a plastic bag fee. Assemblyman Luis R. Sepulveda says, “A 5-cent tax is a burden on many of our poor people and many of our seniors” (NY Times, 2017). Some are concerned with paying and some do not want their convenience to be tampered with.

In 2016, the state of California imposed both a “flimsy, single-use plastic bag” ban and also a plastic bag fee that charged consumers 10-cents for a “thicker, reusable plastic bag” (LA Times, 2017). Although there was initially push back, ideas of reusable bags causing bacterial outbreaks, and thoughts of low-income families not being to afford a plastic bag, no one went broke. The plastic bags in collected litter in California also went down from 7.4% of plastic bags in litter to 3.1% of plastic bags in litter. (LA Times, 2017).

Image source: NYC Plastic Bag Report

California has shown New York City it is possible. Instead of worrying about the mass hysteria of shoppers, we need to consider our city’s environmental health. With 8.5 million people, it is New York City’s duty to follow standards that protect our environment.

This year, it seems that New York’s Governor Cuomo may finally be getting it. A recent article by the New York Post stated that Cuomo is “considering a statewide ban on plastic bags to help curb unnecessary trash” (New York Post, 2018). Although it isn’t a commitment on a plastic bag fee, it is a step in the right direction. Could you imagine New York City becoming a leader in the environmental movement?

Sources
Alamo, Liza. Personal interview. 01 May 2018.
Campanile, Carl. “Cuomo considering statewide ban on plastic bags.” New York Post, Mar 2018. May 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/03/05/cuomo-considering-statewide-ban-on-plastic-bags/.
McKinley, Jesse. “Cuomo Blocks New York City Plastic Bag Law.” The New York Times, Feb 2017. May 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/nyregion/cuomo-blocks-new-york-city-plastic-bag-law.html.
The Times Editorial Board. “It’s been a year since California banned single-use plastic bags. The world didn’t end.” The Los Angeles Times, Nov 2017. May 2018. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-plastic-bag-ban-anniversary-20171118-story.html.
United States, Department of Environmental Conservation. New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report: An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags. New York State, 13 Jan 2018.

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What is Social Responsibility?

Social responsibility is always on my mind. The reason why I write is because of social responsibility. The reason why I feel a strong desire to educate people about the environment and self-care is due to social responsibility. The reason why I devote my time to express what are non-traditional ideas is all owed to social responsibility. So what is social responsibility and why is it important?

Social responsibility is the act of taking initiative to deal with urgent social and environmental issues without it being outwardly enforced; it is a voluntary job.

There are many different ways that people can choose to exercise taking initiative, it depends on the problem they’re trying to combat. Most people will confront the issue at a local level which means within the communities nearest to/surrounding them. While some will confront issues in a much bigger manner, involving federal/state government representatives or non-profit organizations. Whatever the way, one of social responsibility’s main goal is to create awareness.

We currently live in a society that sees major change come from the bottom up. We are constantly fighting for humanitarian causes or for justice from the government. Corporations are quick to do what it takes to keep making money… even if it means taking advantage of people who don’t see the existing viscous cycles. Change lies in social responsibility and that’s why it’s important.

Social responsibility can be a 5-minute beach clean-up. It can be food or clothing drives to donate to families in need or the homeless. It can be getting neighbors to sign a petition for change your community desperately needs. It can be teaching a class how to garden and plant their own food. It can be peaceful protesting, activism, and/or strikes. The variations are endless as the list goes on.

So what can you do? I think it’s a lot more than you realize you’re capable…

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Seabin Project “Vacuum” Cleans the Ocean

Happy World Oceans Day! With less than 2 weeks til we enter the summer season it’s crunch time to spread awareness about the ocean and its livelihood. Earlier this week I mentioned the polluted state of the deepest part of the ocean and also introduced one woman who’s inviting people to help their local communities. Today, however, I wanted to share a commercial way to help clean any coastline called the Seabin Project.

This revolutionary floating bin (shown below) acts as a vacuum for the ocean by sucking in the surface of seawater using a pump. The litter/pollution is kept and the seawater is returned back into the ocean via its mesh innards. Sounds simple right? Thanks to the Seabin Project, it really is that simple. People often think answers to environmental issues have to be as complicated as the problems they cause but that’s not entirely true.

seabin

The only down sides are that the Seabin requires daily maintenance and can only be placed in close quarters to docks, marinas, and typically calm waters. The good news in that is that floating trash makes its way everywhere along coastlines. With ever-changing technology, we can expect to see bigger and better coming out of this idea.

Summer 2017 will be the first season they are for sale. Please click here to visit their page, learn specific details about the Seabin, and the entire project.

Follow the cause on social media:
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The 5-Minute Beach Clean-up Challenge

5 minute beach clean up

Hey there bloomers! Yesterday I started the conversation about oceanic pollution and how it affects the entire world. You can click here to view the World Environment Day post. But to recap here — this week I’m spending time on bringing awareness to this environmental problem that affects our entire ocean. Today I’m continuing that convo by introducing an Instagrammer who’s taking a stand against oceanic pollution, plastic use, and making it social.

Her name is Carolina and she’s from Costa Rica. She founded the Instagram @5minutebeachcleanup as a challenge to everyone all over the world. Would you sacrifice 5 minutes of your beach time to tossing trash? I think any person who naturally cares about the world wouldn’t mind at all.

As inspiring as this is, it doesn’t stop there. Carolina invites her followers to tag their own clean-up photos and may very well repost yours if you participate. You can easily tell that she’s passionate about this when viewing her pictures & captions. I had the opportunity to reach out to her and thank her for the work she’s put into such a great effort.

Although 5 minutes does not sound like a long enough time for the perfect clean-up… every little bit counts. When more people are involved, the same 5 minutes can become hours, days, and even weeks added up. Imagine how much cleaning up can be achieved in that time if we shared the responsibility locally. I think environmental change truly comes from the human conscious understanding how each of us is apart of a much larger whole. But first, think with compassion and sacrifice some 5 minutes.

This is the perfect chance to take a stand against people like Donald Trump who don’t take evidence of climate change and environmental protection serious. It’s also a great opportunity to teach kids, family members, friends, colleagues, etc. about the importance of oceans, beaches, marine life, and how it relates to us.

Below are some more snapshots of this amazing cause. Please follow @5minutebeachcleanup on Instagram and take part in the challenge at your local beach!

View this post on Instagram

From Mexico 🇲🇽 #Repost @guadafk GRACIAS ♥ Consciousness ♥ Education ♥ Responsability ♥ 👏🏼👇🏼 ・・・ Every day, on the beach, there are tons of plastic brought from the ocean. What if we all really take 5 minutes each day we go to clean it? – why do we expect anyone else to clean the plastic we consume every day from out beaches? – every act of kindness goes a long way. Dear Tulum voyagers; let's carry a portable ashtray, let's pick a bit of plastic every day, every little counts. Imagine if we all do it as our holiday routine? – imagine if we teach that to our kids?- But most importantly, let's be conscious of the plastic we use every day. There are ways. Let's not get too comfortable around trash. #tulum #tulumbeach #betterworld #5minutebeachcleanup #fiveminutebeachcleanup #loveyourplanet🌎

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March with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (3.10.17)

On Friday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will march from the Mall at Washington D.C. to the White House starting at 10am. This march is requesting that President Donald Trump meets with its tribal leaders to speak on respecting the rights of indigenous peoples but also the environment as a whole. This is an ongoing issue as the Trump administration continues to completely dismantle certain government operations that took far longer to get into executing in the first place.

Once upon a time I had studied as an Environmental Policy major and I found it really interesting that corporations had to produce Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to determine whether or not large scale decisions were environmentally sound. Trump’s decisions, although not obviously funded by corporations, is nonetheless and should be treated as such too. Creating a government that doesn’t respect the environment is not one that reflects the people.

It’s a shame how far greed can take people in power to avoid the needs of a planet that has only sustained them too.

Please visit this link, read about it, and spread this information about the March at Washington D.C. with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by clicking the link or image above. I stand with Standing Rock. I respect indigenous peoples. Most of all, I respect our earth. #WaterIsLife ✊🏽